The Union City schools have a reputation statewide, says School Superintendent Stanley Sanger.
Sanger says that when Chris Cerf stood before the state Senate committee earlier this year seeking permanent appointment as New Jersey’s Commissioner of Education, Cerf pointed to Union City as a stellar example of an urban school district.
“He said, ‘Union City gets it,’ ” Sanger added. “We will continue to stress the importance of instruction and of academic achievement in this city, and we are firm believers that when an urban child is given the opportunity and is provided with the resources they need, they will succeed. We have proven that.”
Last year the district schools housed 10,734 students. 1,400 were enrolled in preschool programs offered by private community providers, and 700 students were enrolled in adult education programs.
In a city spanning just short of 1.3 sq. miles, this is an impressive number of students, and making sure they all receive the proper opportunities is an equally impressive task.
“We’ve had to think outside the box.” – Stanley Sanger
Union City’s relatively new high school building, which was selected almost a decade ago by the State of New Jersey as one of three “demonstration projects” for the state’s school construction program, houses an entire athletic field on its roof.
The city’s brand new elementary school, The Colin Powell School, will follow suit with two rooftop playgrounds for its pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade children. Located at 1500 New York Ave., it will be ready in time for the upcoming school year, which will officially commence with a full day for students district-wide on Thursday, Sept. 6.
Colin Powell School
“The Colin Powell School will allow students who were in rather antiquated buildings to learn in a state-of-the-art facility,” Sanger said.
The school will house 780 students from the former Gilmore and Hudson schools, which are 105 and 101 years old respectively, and will provide them with a new gymnasium, a multimedia center, science laboratories, and a performing arts auditorium.
The $34 million project has been two years in the making and through a partnership between the Board of Education and the Schools Development Authority (SDA); it will be open for business this coming week.
Sanger and the Board of Education are currently in the planning stages with the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) and the SDA to renovate the Gilmore School, which is located on 17th Street, and turn it into an arts integration school. The district’s existing arts integration school, Woodrow Wilson, is leased from Weehawken and lies just over the border.
“The lease is costly,” Sanger said, “and it would be best to not have to go outside of the city.”
Sanger hopes the Hudson School, located on 19th Street, will become an alternative and adult education site, as long as the SDA and the NJDOE approve.
“We have funding in capital reserve that will allow us to complete both projects at no cost to the Union City taxpayer,” Sanger added.
Technology and special programs
The Board of Education will provide more laptops and iPads to teachers, and also to certain students, throughout the district this year. Not only will they provide the technology, but the training necessary to optimize the educational benefits such technology allows.
“There will be an expansion of technology to all of our schools,” Sanger said. “Our teachers will be trained to use them to improve the instructional process.”
The district will also expand their special needs program, specifically with autism instruction, Sanger said. There will be services for 11 classes for autistic children, which will allow more students to be brought back into the district whereas previously they had to send them out to receive the instruction they needed.
Back in October 2011, the $930,000, 16,900 square foot Student Sanctuary project began. Located on the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and 24th Street, the state-funded sanctuary not only promises to provide students with trees and plants, a rain garden, and a small amphitheatre, but it will mark the completion of Union City High School.
The sanctuary is scheduled for completion in the fall, Sanger said, and he looks forward to providing students with the benefits of an outdoor educational setting in a city with very little open space.
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org