The Kingsway Regional School District in New Jersey is in discussions that could potentially end in the termination of its 26-member custodial staff. Although still in its early phases, the district is looking at whether hiring an outside contractor in place of the current janitorial staff would result in savings for the two-school district.

"The board didn't take any action," Superintendent Jim Lavender said last week. "But it's investigating potential cost savings by outsourcing custodial services."

According to an article, the board of education contracted a custodial outsourcing analysis last spring, which showed the potential for a significant savings. In September, it authorized advertising a request for proposals, two of which were received. Proposals were submitted from the New York-based Pritchard Industries and Cleveland's GCA Services Group. Both are companies that specialize in cleaning commercial, industrial and educational facilities.

Since the original analysis in April, Kingsway's employment numbers have decreased due to budget constraints; therefore, further examination of the figures is necessary before a final decision can be made.

"We've had a couple of proposals but we're updating the numbers to be more current," said board of education President Mark Kehoe. "We're having the numbers analyzed so we can better determine if it makes sense to go in that direction or not."

The custodial staff at Kingsway's middle and high schools are members of the Kingsway Education Association, the union that includes the district's teachers as well as lunch room attendants and groundskeepers. The association is firmly against the hiring of an outside custodial staff, maintaining that the people who currently work at the school are not just employees but familiar members of the community who provide a service beyond simply cleaning the buildings.

"We don't want to contribute to the high unemployment rate in Gloucester County," said KEA President Sue McAnally. "It's all 'cents' and no sense. They're happy with our custodians and with their performance."

At last week's board meeting, some individuals came out to express their displeasure with the idea that the janitorial staff may be dismissed. Concerns about the quality of work, care for the schools' equipment and safety of its students were brought up.

Joyce Spence a resident of South Harrison Township, former Kingsway student and wife of one Kingsway janitor spoke of the people who cleaned the halls of the building when she herself was a student there.

"They were dedicated Kingsway staff that helped make Kingsway clean and safe, but they were also part of the Kingsway community," she said. "Now, the names may be different but the quality is still there."

If the board decides to go with an outside company, the deal will most likely go into effect at the end of the school year. As a result, who, if any, of the custodial staff would remain is yet to be determined.