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175-Year-Old Prep School Goes Coed

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After 175 years of educating boys and 18 years of debate about admitting girls, the prestigious Lawrenceville School of New Jersey has decided to become coeducational.

The boarding school's trustees approved the change last week, thus adding Lawrenceville to the ranks of other formerly all-male boarding schools that in recent years have opted to admit girls. Among them: the Brooks School, Phillips Exeter Academy, Governor Dummer Academy in Massachusetts, and the Groton and Hotchkiss Schools in Connecticut.

"A coeducational environment best prepares young people intellectually, socially, and psychologically for the world in which they live and work today," said Bert A. Getz, president of Lawrenceville's 26-member board of trustees.

The board declined to report the actual vote totals, but James E. Blake, a spokesman for the school, said that "the vote in favor of coeducation was overwhelming."

According to Mr. Blake, the board first considered the question of admitting girls to the school in 1968, but in three subsequent votes--in 1969, 1973, and 1978--opponents of coeducation won. "It has been a matter under constant investigation," he said.

Lawrenceville was originally established "to get kids in shape for the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University," Mr. Blake said. The school, which currently enrolls about 650 boys, 490 of whom are boarders, occupies a 360-acre country campus "five miles south of Princeton's gates."

For the last 10 to 15 years, the students have advocated admitting girls, "which is not surprising," Mr. Blake said, adding, "Our faculty has become increasingly in favor of the change as the years have gone by."

In April, at a meeting called to allow faculty members to voice their opinions on the matter to the board, the faculty voted 87 to 5 in favor of admitting girls, Mr. Blake said.

After last week's decision, Mr. Getz appointed a committee of board members to implement the new policy and to ensure "a smooth transition from the present to the future," Mr. Blake said. The committee was charged with deciding when the first girls will be admitted, possibly as early as the fall of 1987, according to Mr. Blake.--br

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