Time for pencils, time for books
Weehawken superintendent gives a glimpse of what’s to come this school year
by Gennarose Pope
Reporter Staff Writer
Sep 02, 2012 | 3701 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
BACK TO SCHOOL – Weehawken’s schools will open their doors to students on Sept. 5.
BACK TO SCHOOL – Weehawken’s schools will open their doors to students on Sept. 5.

After a very warm – and, students would say, very short – Weehawken summer, the time has come to replace the bathing cap with the thinking cap, stock up on shiny new school supplies, and trek back to school.

On Wednesday, Sept. 5, Weehawken students will return to school for three single-session days (perhaps to ease that transition), and commence full-time on Monday, Sept. 10.

They will see district-wide changes this year, technological improvements and educationally and environmentally conscious projects, Superintendent Kevin McLellan said last week.

The district has quite a reputation to uphold, with its award-winning marching band, its strong sports teams, and its history of nationally recognized student academic achievement.

Customized science textbooks

The Board of Education, in conjunction with four other Hudson County districts, pooled funds for an overdue update of the school’s kindergarten through 12th grade science textbooks. The district is participating in a program to create science textbooks tailored to N.J. core standards, but also to the county’s needs, McLellan said.

Because the Houghton Mifflin-produced, tailor-made textbooks were purchased by several districts, each one received significant savings.
On Wednesday, Sept. 5, Weehawken students will return to school.
“What will be great about this is that we’re going to have a digital experiment component connected to the textbook,” McLellan said. “Teachers will be able to perform virtual experiments with the students, and students will be able to review and perform these experiments on their computers.”

The staff will be trained by Houghton Mifflin in the process, and the whole endeavor was undertaken in an effort to give science more priority in schools nationwide, he said.

Technological upgrade

$45,000 worth of new Smart Boards, or white boards that are computer and internet compatible, will be distributed across the district, McLellan said. The cost of the 23 boards was supplemented by the Webster School Parent Teacher Participation Association (PTPA) and local donations, and the goal is to install one in every single classroom by following school year.

“It’s just another phase in bringing technology into the district,” McLellan said. “By next year a majority of classrooms will have Smart Board instruction.”

In keeping with the upgrade plan, the high school will receive 130 new computers. Last year, they upgraded the elementary school’s computers.

They’ve also increased the internet bandwidth from 10 MB per second to 50 MB per second to enhance inter-school communication and internet access.

“Think of it like a pipe of information,” McLellan explained for those not quite familiar with bandwidth. “Ours just got a whole lot bigger.”

Outdoorsy stuff

“In our continued commitment to going green in our district, we are going to have solar panels installed on the high school and Webster school during this next year,” McLellan explained. “It’s a county-wide effort, thanks to the Board of Education’s efforts working with the Hudson County Improvement Authority.”

Just like with the science textbooks, because of the county-wide participation, the school has obtained a cheaper bid on the materials needed, and the installation will bring savings – and education as well – to the schools.

“The meters will be installed in visible places in the schools to show students just how much energy is taken in by the sun, and how much energy will be saved,” McLellan said. “We’re definitely trying to integrate an educational component into the project.”

The district is also coordinating with Mayor Richard Turner, the Town Council, and the Webster School PTPA to make the Webster School yard more kid friendly. Several years ago, a giant map of the United States was painted on the surface, and now kid-friendly games like hopscotch will be added.

“The goal is to involve students in more organized outdoor activities,” McLellan said. “They will be fitness oriented, and will be used during phys. ed. time during the warmer months.”

One of the best in state

U.S. News revealed its top Best High Schools list in May, and four Hudson County schools placed in New Jersey's top 50. Weehawken High School ranked 44th out of 389 high schools in the state, and 1,297th out of 21,776 in the nation. Of 21,776 U.S. high schools, 82 New Jersey schools made the national list.

Twenty-eight state schools were awarded gold medals, 23 received silver medals, and 31 received bronze. New Jersey has a total of 389 high schools, 294 school districts, 30,807 full-time teachers, and 421,215 enrolled students.

Gennarose Pope may be reached at gpope@hudsonreporter.com

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