Our StoryDelaware Valley Regional High School was the fourth high school created in Hunterdon County. Supported by voters and bond money from the five municipalities of Alexandria, Holland and Kingwood townships; Frenchtown and Milford, it was in the “geographic center of the region it serves” according to news accounts.
The 25-room school, built for $1,600,000, replaced Frenchtown High School. Newspaper articles reported, “The rambling, 'ultra-modern’ new school was on a 67-acre tract of land” that “last year was a farm”. Ground was broken on March 18, 1958 and the cornerstone laid on August 20, 1959 that held “a copper box of memorabilia”.
September 9, 1959, the first day of school, began with 24 faculty members. According to newspaper reports, the minimum starting salary for teachers was $4,200. Head Football Coach Tap Webb, for whom our current football field is named, and a few other head coaches received an additional stipend of as much as $500 for the entire season.
Approximately 434 students rode on 10 bus routes, but the school was expected to grow. “The existing structure could be expanded simply by the addition of classrooms, if enrollment should climb to that degree,” it was reported. An additional bus was purchased in 1960 for $6455.75 to accommodate the already increased enrollment projected for the 1960-1961 school year.
Del Val’s first principal, Bertram M. Light, joined and headed Frenchtown School in 1931, only 5 years after its own founding in 1926. Guiding Del Val to its new location, Principal Light retired in 1960 after 28 years of service. The title was passed on to Charles E. Phillips. The present library is dedicated to him for his 21 years of service, many as superintendent.
The 1959-1960 Delaware Valley Student Handbook reminded students that “strength of good character is expressed in courtesy and appropriate dress at all times.” Students were required to take four years of English, four years of Physical Education, and two years of US History. Subjects such as Math, Science, Arts and Crafts and Stenography (for example) were listed as “electives”. In his opening speech at the school dedication, Hunterdon County Superintendent Dr. Kenneth A. Woolf said that the “new facilities provide one of the best means we have for perpetuating and improving our democratic way of life.” Students were not allowed to drive to school unless they had special permission from the office, and only in emergencies, causing student writer Robert McCrea to lament “as things stand now, it looks like students will never drive at DVR without special permission!” Eighty-five students graduated in 1961.
The school population swelled over the next fifteen years as predicted, soon outgrowing the physical space. In June 1978, a $2,391,000 addition to the school was begun. The plan added a new and bigger cafeteria, ten new classrooms designated as “D” hall, a new gym with locker rooms, a weight room and a “new and more efficient” library. Reflecting back on the year, the “Valley ‘79” yearbook recounted that “crowded conditions had either hindered or caused the elimination of many educational programs.” As a side note and a sign of the times, the senior class portrait section of that yearbook was divided into sections based on each senior’s astrological sign! The completion of the new addition gave teachers the opportunity to finally have their own classrooms. Quotes from teachers ranged from “I like having the English classrooms and the library area together”, to complaints regarding the smallness of the classrooms, to many comments about “how bright” the colors in the new wing appeared.
Despite the 1978 expansion overcrowding continued to be a problem. In the November 3, 2003 edition of the “The Delphi” school newspaper, it was reported that “Referendum Results Delight DVR”. This referred to the fact that a fourth referendum attempt had been passed by the voters in September of that year and a bond for a $3.1 million dollar expansion had been approved. The three previous attempts had been widely reported as marked with frustration on both sides. Taxpayers were questioning the necessity of a possible tax hike. Students contemplated what predicted split-time sessions would mean to them, and another year spent in overcrowded hallways. An editorial in the school newspaper predicted the “diminishing or dropping of most clubs, sports and elective classes” if split sessions were instituted. The construction consisted of the “E” classroom wing, expanded the cafeteria and the music room, included a “few infrastructure enhancements”, and was completed and dedicated in 2004.
The emphasis has shifted from renovation in the last few years to maintenance, as many parts of the building and infrastructure are original to the 1959 building. Recent grant money from the state is providing some part of the funds for projects such as new energy efficient windows, to be installed in the summer of 2015. While thankfully leaving much of the building intact, Hurricane Sandy did inflict costly damage to one gym. Many smaller projects such as the new choir room have been completed “in-house” by our talented custodial, maintenance, and technology departments.
Cultural memories of such bygone areas as “the smoking lounge” resurface and are shared when parents return for back to school night. Many students are proud to be second, third and even fourth generation Delaware Valley High School graduates if one includes Frenchtown High School. Not many high schools can boast about that today. Within our talented instructional staff are a fair number are Delaware Valley graduates. Delaware Valley has a proud history and a vibrant present-day.
This year, senior class students lined up very early on an August morning to get their coveted on-site parking stickers; students have a much longer list of graduation requirements than their 1960 counterparts and the curriculum guide is more likely to use phrases like “opportunity” and “choice” rather than “perpetuate”. Del Val graduated over 200 students last year, and has present enrollment of approximately 950. The list of clubs, activities, sport opportunities, drama and music is impressive, and 80% of all students participate in fall sports/activities. Chalkboards have been replaced with Whiteboards and interactive “Smart” boards, and textbooks often replaced with e-books, iBooks or other resources accessed on student iPads.We appreciate the history that brought us here, and as we move into the future, we remain dedicated to our stated vision of DVRHS remaining a dynamic force in our community. A place where strong relationships are valued as essential; where focused leadership, a positive culture, engaging instruction, enthusiastic students and school-wide pride remain the keys to our continued success.A special thank you to Carolyn Wolsiefer for her research and writing of our story!