Hoboken’s parks and playgrounds were full last week with children enjoying the moments of summer before the public schools reopen on Monday.
At Church Square Park’s toddler area, a young boy named Jack said that show-and-tell would probably be the highlight of his upcoming year.
On the other side of the park, a group of young students from Hoboken Charter School talked about their hopes.
“I’m most excited for science and art class,” said Mia Usherovich, 5. “I like art because I get to paint all kinds of different things.”
Her older sister, Daniella, who’s going into first grade, said she was excited for music, because she participated in the school’s musical, “The Jungle Book,” last year and is planning on participating again.
All public schools open on Monday, Sept. 9, at 8:15 a.m. for elementary school students and 8:10 a.m. for junior and senior high school students.
“The goal here is to make the focus on academics more pronounced than the focus on clothing.” – Superintendent Mark Toback on Hoboken’s new school uniforms
New uniforms for grades 7-12
A main change in the public schools this year is that older students will be required to adhere to a strict dress code comprised of color-specific school uniforms. In July, Superintendent of Schools Mark Toback said the change will improve the academic and social climate in Hoboken High School.
“The goal here is to make the focus on academics more pronounced than the focus on clothing,” said Toback. “Uniforms will not only take pressure off students who feel that they have to fit in by wearing certain clothes, but also save administrators and faculty from having to waste time dealing with dress code violations.”
According to the policy, which is posted on the school board’s website, students in grades seven and eight must wear black or gray polo shirts, and high school students must wear red or white polo shirts. White or light blue button-up shirts with a collar are also an option.
For the lower body, students must choose between khaki and black Dockers trousers, khaki shorts, or knee length skirts of either color for girls.
Crew neck, V-neck, cardigan sweaters, and fleeces are permitted, but have to match the grade colors. Hoodies, hats, sweatbands, bandannas, scarves, and sunglasses are forbidden on school grounds, unless they are kept in a student’s locker.
Additionally, Toback has said that the district will provide a uniform to any student with economic difficulties, and allow any student to opt out on religious or medical grounds should they so choose.
“No student is going to be denied the right to a uniform because they can’t afford one, and every student and parent has the right to a hearing to discuss why they believe they should be allowed to opt out of wearing a uniform,” he said.
Two new principals
Both the Calabro and Wallace elementary schools will be under new supervision this year, as the district hired new principals for both buildings this summer.
Joseph P. Vespignani, a former Spanish teacher, middle school vice principal, and soccer coach, will take over as principal at Calabro. Vespignani will replace outgoing Principal Laurinda Pereira and will earn an annual salary of $129,200.
Through a united effort between home and school, we will ensure that all students receive a “quality, comprehensive education,” Vespignani said in a letter to parents that was posted on the district’s website. “Our goal will be to foster the academic and social development of each child.”
Vespignani has worked in the Clifton and Belleville school systems for the past 10 years.
Calabro is located at 524 Park Ave.
At Wallace School, students will be under the guidance of Roger Bowley, according to the district’s website. Bowley was previously the principal of Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Harrison Township, and was hired by the Hoboken Board of Education at an August meeting.
He will be paid roughly the same as Vespignani, according to one local newspaper report.
“I am passionate about teaching and learning and will enthusiastically share my knowledge and experience with everyone,” Bowley wrote in a letter posted on the district’s website. “I am sure that I will have the opportunity to learn much from each of you as well. As we begin the school year, my goal is to learn the names of staff, students, and parents as quickly as possible.”
Still a few waiting for pre-K
Parents had expressed worries throughout the summer after many of them received notices that their children had been placed on the waitlist for the district’s early childhood program. The program is state-funded and required to admit every student who applies.
The issue caused some controversy and piqued the interest of a Newark-based educational advocacy center, but last week, Toback said that the waitlist is “down to a handful of students” and that he is confident it will be at zero soon.
“We’re fairly confident that the Department of Education will provide funding for an additional classroom once the school year starts,” he said. “We should be in a position where everyone is placed in a class.
Hoboken Charter’s new facilities
As for Hoboken Charter School, significant renovations are being done to the building on Seventh and Washington streets that will leave it better than before, said Dierdra Grode, the school’s director.
“It’s going to be an incredible facility, it’s just not done yet,” she said. “We decided that rather than delay school opening for a few days, we would open in Jersey City, because what would happen if a few days turned into a few weeks?”
She estimated that the school will reopen in Hoboken by October, and noted that parents have been overwhelmingly satisfied with the school’s performance in the past year. One parent, interviewed in the park this week, said he thought everything has gone smoothly as possible.
“It was a significant fire, this is the right decision,” said Greg Usherovich, who has two daughters, in kindergarten and first grade, respectively. “If it takes another couple of weeks, I think it's worth the wait.
The high school, on Fourth and Garden Streets, was unaffected, but Grode said this week that returning the younger students to Hoboken is an important goal for fulfilling the school’s mission.
“A lot of our curriculum is based off our campus experience and collaboration between older and younger students, so it will be nice to have everyone back in Hoboken,” she said.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org