‘This is a pretty cool school’
Lots going on at partly-displaced Hoboken Charter; fundraiser Jan. 28
by Amanda Palasciano
Reporter staff writer
Jan 13, 2013 | 4600 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TONS OF TEES – Parents and children sport Rebuild Hoboken Charter School T-shirts outside the 713 Washington building.
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Before there was Sandy, a fire at 713 Washington St. was the big local disaster of 2012. The Sept. 6 blaze displaced students at the Hoboken Charter School. All four floors plus the basement were ruined, three of which had been fully renovated only a year earlier by the Hoboken Charter School themselves.

Yet, the school has pushed on with an array of unusual programs for its students.

Splitting up

The Hoboken Charter School is a partially-funded K-12 program split into K-8 and 9-12. The older grades are in the Demarest building on Fourth Street.

Each grade has only one class, and the classes are capped from 22-25 students. Students come from Hoboken, Jersey City, Bayonne, Union City, and other neighboring towns. The K-12 program uses a lottery. Priority is given to Hoboken residents and siblings of students already enrolled in the school. If there is a vacancy and no Hoboken resident on the waitlist for that spot, an out-of-district student is given the opportunity. No student pays tuition. Charter schools are founded by parents and educators and get most of their funding through the local Board of Education, and some from fundraisers.
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“The smallness is a real draw for our high school.” – Deirdra Grode
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For several years, the Hoboken Charter School K-8 program renovated then leased three floors of the 713 Washington Street building. Over a year ago, the Friends of the Hoboken Charter School, a 501c non-profit organization, purchased the building on Washington Street from the Sisters Charity of St. Elizabeth. But after the purchase and renovations were all done, the Hoboken Charter School and Friends of the Hoboken Charter School watched their hard work go up in flames on the second day of school in 2012.

Students resumed classes in a parochial school in Jersey City Heights.

Then, in November, due to Hurricane Sandy, both buildings were closed for a week.

The high school

As their post-holiday routine gets back to normal, the students talked last week about the many activities and projects going on at their unique school.

You wouldn’t expect 16-year-old old juniors to commend their high school because it’s “peaceful,” but two Hoboken Charter High School students made a point of noting this in an interview last week.

“This is a pretty cool school, you could say. You get to know everybody. It’s very peaceful,” Richard Donan said Monday.

“I know everybody here. I transferred here from another school and all you saw [at my other school] were fights. I even saw a knife fight. It’s a small school but not too small, it’s peaceful,” said Bryant Arbito.

“The smallness is a real draw for our high school,” said Principal of the K-8 program and Executive Director of the K-12 program Deirdra Grode. “We are able to personalize the programs and provide rich hands-on learning experiences.”

Donan and Arbito grew up on the same block in Jersey City and have been in Hoboken Charter High School since freshman year. They make it obvious why this high school is a world apart from other high schools.

Seniors in the high school participate in a unique project called the senior portfolio, in which they work on a specific topic the entire year and present it to a committee.

According to Grode, all seniors at the high school have already been accepted to at least one academic program after high school.

“All of our seniors have been accepted to at least one college for next year. Obviously many of our students are waiting to hear from many more schools, but all are accepted into a post-secondary college program for the Fall 2013 which is really exciting,” Grode said.

Civic outreach

Both of Hoboken Charter School’s programs focus heavily on service learning and civic outreach.

Hoboken Charter High School Principal John Bellocchio explained that the high school kids visit St. Matthew Trinity Lutheran Church two to three times per week to cook and serve food to the needy. This is part of the curriculum.

Donan and Arbito said they enjoyed learning to cook and helping other people.

The K-8 program has also actively participated in many service learning projects including helping children in Kenyan villages.

When the fire broke out at the Washington Street location, the high school students dug in to help their peers, while the K-8 kids and parents worked on fundraising.

What’s next?

The goal has been to get the K-8 kids back in Hoboken by August. According to Grode, that goal is still attainable.

One bump in the road was that the school’s large-scale benefit and auction was scheduled for a date close to Hurricane Sandy.

“It was no longer appropriate to hold the event,” said Grode. “There were still people without power in their homes.”

Elissa Brachfeld, president of the Friends of Hoboken Charter School said in November, “With the city facing unique challenges in the wake of the storm and both residents and business owners dealing with extensive clean-up efforts, various levels of repairs and insurance claims, we felt the focus right now should be on the needs of the broader community.”

The event has been rescheduled for Jan. 28 from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.at the W Hotel in Hoboken, 225 River Street. All proceeds will go to rebuild the Hoboken Charter School at 713 Washington St.

To purchase tickets, visit www.hcs-pa.org

For those who can’t attend the live benefit and auction, an online auction will be available starting Monday, January 15th. To view and bid on an exciting list of items, visit www.biddingforgood.com/rebuildhcs

For more information on the school visit www.hobokencs.org.

Amanda Palasciano may be reached at amandap@hudsonreporter.com.

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