Back to school.
Yes, it's that time. All 7,200 North Bergen students and nearly 1,000 from Guttenberg will hear the first school bell around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and will attend full-day sessions from the outset. The two districts' teachers are required to come in for work a day earlier.
In North Bergen, there is a freshman orientation slated for Tuesday afternoon in an abbreviated schedule slated to get the newcomers accustomed to their surroundings, as well as reviewing the rules and regulations that come with being a high school student.
North Bergen Superintendent of Schools Peter Fischbach has been battling an overcrowding problem in his district's schools for several years now, and this year will be no exception. In fact, there may be a distinction this time around.
"I am definitely anticipating an all-time enrollment high," Fischbach said. "That is obviously not good news. It puts a great deal of pressure on the teachers and the physical plants themselves."
Fischbach said that school officials had been enrolling new students as late as Thursday morning.
"There are several new students each morning," Fischbach said. "It seems as if everyone has waited until the last minute to enroll their children. Even though school starts this week, we're still getting parents coming in."
The district's students will see some changes when they return to class Wednesday, with the most significant taking place at Kennedy School, where a 12-classroom extension has been added to the school and will be ready for use for the first day of classes.
"The classrooms at Kennedy will be used for kindergarten students as well as the PEAK students (gifted and talented) in the upper grades," Fischbach said. "There are just a few small minor jobs that need to be taken care of at Kennedy, but we should be ready to go from the first day of school."
New kitchen facilities have been installed at Horace Mann, Robert Fulton and Franklin Schools, with a new kitchen installation in the final stages at Lincoln School.
While the kitchen may be ready at Lincoln, the three-story extension, where the township's pre-kindergarten students will all attend, is not completed at Lincoln, much to Fischbach's dismay.
"The building is about 45 percent completed," Fishbach said. "We're very disappointed by that. The project will not be completed by this school year."
Which means that the pre-k students will remain in the temporary trailer classrooms, situated inside Bruins Stadium in North Hudson Braddock Park, for a third straight year. While Fischbach was optimistic that the Lincoln School extension would be completed already, the program was worked well at Bruins Stadium, under the guidance of pre-k coordinator Al Tommassino, so there is no major concern.
In fact, the construction woes at Lincoln are so severe that a temporary trailer restroom facility has been installed there, in order that the students have enough toilet space.
"The existing bathrooms near where we're building have been gutted and not repaired in time for the start of school," Fischbach said. "So we're bringing in that temporary unit just in case."
The Board of Education is scheduled to discuss the delays in the Lincoln School extension project at its next meeting.
Beginning Sept. 15, there will be a pilot breakfast program for the students of Kennedy School who qualify to participate in the state program, based on financial need.
"We're receiving state aid to begin this breakfast program," Fischbach said. "It's a pilot program being introduced at Kennedy, and if it works, then it will be introduced to the other schools later on."
Horace Mann School is receiving a new gym floor and bleacher area. The high school's auditorium will receive new seating, lighting and a floor.
All of the other improvements to the high school - a new home economics lab, a physics lab, and a music lab, have been completed.
Fischbach said that the district is reviewing its curriculum to meet the standards set by the state Department of Education.
"We will have any revisions made by the beginning of the school year," Fischbach said.
Fischbach said that he had nothing new to report on the district's aspirations of building a new high school in the West Side Avenue area. Many contingency plans, including one that may involve the old APA Trucking headquarters, remain as options.
Guttenberg's lone school, Anna L. Klein School, also reports back with full-day sessions on Wednesday. The school's principal, Robert Tholen, said that most of the school's standards will remain status quo, except for one major change.
"There will be basic skills instruction within the same classroom now," Tholen said. "Instead of pulling the kids who need remediation out of the classroom and [bringing them] to another room, they will be taught by another teacher in the same room. So we'll have two teachers in those classrooms. That's a major change and we think it's a move in the positive direction. We're hoping to improve test scores across the board that way."
Tholen said that enrollment is expected to be in the 925-950 range, where it has been in recent years.