To prepare for the 2017-2018 academic year, the district has undertaken several facility upgrades –including a new middle school, overhauling the high school curriculum, and adding more courses to the after-school Passport to Learning program.
Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson detailed various construction projects last week.
The biggest was construction in the A.J. Demarest building, next to Church Square Park on Fourth and Garden streets, which will house roughly 200 students for the district’s new middle school. Last year, the middle school was in the Hoboken High School building, but the district and the Board of Education decided they needed a separate space.
The Demarest building also hosts other programs including the Mile Square Early Learning Center for preschool students. Decades ago, it was the city’s high school, attended by Frank Sinatra.
“What I like about the space is that it is freshly renovated,” said Johnson. “We did everything that we possible could to best enhance the space in a building that’s 100 years old.”
According to Johnson, wireless access is available in every classroom. Each classroom is also outfitted with an interactive LED board. The school offers students an almost one-to-one ratio of access to Chromebooks.
There’s a dedicated world language arts room, a dedicated music room, art room, and two new science labs as well as new offices and bathrooms.
“What’s nice is everyone has their own space so no teachers are sharing classrooms,” said Johnson.
She added that the gym was redone, with new paint and floors.
Now that the high school has some free space, it was reconfigured and reorganized for “better flow” and received a new biomedical sciences lab.
“On the third floor we now have an entire wing dedicated to a global learning institute, we have an entire area of the first floor dedicated to Project Lead the Way, and on the second floor, next to the principal’s office, there’s a wing dedicated to personal learning and growth periods and where a Guidance Department is,” said Johnson.
The school also has a yoga and mindfulness room.
The first floor will have a student art gallery “so that the kids have the ability to legitimately show their artwork.”
Meanwhile, the elementary schools have had a lot of painting as well as some light upgrades, including new bathrooms at Brandt, a new theater curtain at Wallace, and new matting in the Connors gymnasium.
A curriculum overhaul
Johnson said that the teachers and counselors looked at eliminating “those classes that seemed not stimulating to kids. Then we added new courses that really highlighted the idea of connecting kids to the larger global world. “
Twenty new courses are being offered, and seven revised and improved.
Some of the new courses include the Mathematical Analysis of Sports, the Worlds Canvas, AP History, People Who Shaped the World, Electronic Music and Songwriting, Microsoft Office Certification and Application, Applications of Google Drive, and more.
There will also be more courses in the Project Lead the Way STEM program. PLTW is a comprehensive, nationally recognized STEM Program. It includes courses in biomedical science, computer science, or engineering. Approximately 80 Hoboken High School students participate in these hands-on programs.
“Because the population in Hoboken over the years has changed, our high school and our entire school district is also changing…So we decided that we were going to take this global approach that would expose them to cultures, expose them to religions, expose them to economic systems and political systems that they can compare and contrast with what they know.”
“In addition to the global orientation of the classes, we also launched a new program called Classrooms Without Walls which allowed for kids to go abroad and visit locations like London, Paris, and Barcelona,” said Johnson.
According to Johnson, through the Classroom Global Conflicts and Resolutions Programs, students will have the opportunity to participate in four challenge areas which they will learn about, research and interview experts on , and find solutions to.
This same program is also being added to the sixth, seventh, and eighth grade levels on a lesser scale.
This year Mandarin will also be offered at the high school and middle school.
The middle school will also have world languages five day a week, a STEAM course with one marking period of fine arts, one marking period of musical theater, one marking period of the inspired classroom global citizenship course, and a Project Lead the Way computer science and application course.
The middle school will also add additional periods of math.
At the elementary school level, students will have two daily periods of math have a new library media-infused English language arts course, and a digitally and technology infused social studies course.
The middle school will also have a new after-school program in which students can participate in clubs, activities, intramural sports, academic support, and homework help.
For students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade, new courses have been added to Passport to Learning, their after school program.
These courses include golf, Coding for Kids, Theater, Young Zoologists in Training, yoga, mixed media arts, Comic Book Kids, and more.
The after school program will also still run Feet of Wonder Dance, Chess, Fitness Fanatics, Journey Magazine -- a student run monthly magazine -- and Young Voices, a choir of students who put their own spin on popular and Broadway songs.
To ensure the district’s families know about the new initiatives, the superintendent and the district have launched several new communication vehicles including superintendent roundtables, a talk in the park series, and a new mobile app.
The Hoboken Public School District Mobile Application, which launched last year, can be downloaded in the Apple Store or Google Play Store and provides users with a calendar of events, notifications, news updates, school contact information, after school program resources, and more.
Johnson said they were able to recently link the app, website, and student information services so that if a robo-call is sent out with a notification, it will also appear as a notification on the app.
For more information on the district go to http://www.hoboken.k12.nj.us/.
Marilyn Baer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.