New turf, new tech in new school year

North Bergen superintendent discusses upcoming changes
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North Bergen High School
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Robert Fulton School
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North Bergen High School
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Robert Fulton School

The public schools in North Bergen open on Thursday, Sept. 7. According to Superintendent of Schools George Solter Jr., students will see a mix of new and continuing programs, additional technology, and some new infrastructure.

Moving toward 1:1

Returning students can expect to see more Google Chromebooks in their classrooms than in previous years.
Chromebooks are tablet computers the students use in their classes. This is part of a plan for North Bergen to become a 1:1 district, meaning each student has access to a tablet, and educators implement educational programs using the devices.
Every student should have one by 2018 or 2019, Solter said.
Solter also said that elementary school students will now bring home standards-based report cards this year. These cards eschew traditional number or letter grades in favor of telling parents exactly what their children’s strengths and weaknesses are. Grades K-2 will be getting the cards this year; grades 3-6 will be getting the cards next year.
“What these basically say is, ‘Does your child understand subject-verb-agreement?’” Solter said, offering an example of how the cards will communicate with parents. “And it will say either, ‘They understand it beyond what they should,’ ‘They understand it the way it should be,’ ‘They’re approaching where they should be,’ or ‘They don’t understand it at all.’ It’s more detailed of what the children understand and what they don’t understand.”
Students in other grades will still receive regular marks for now.

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“We have more technology for the students.” – George Solter Jr.

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Improving established programs

Previously implemented programs will see improvements, too. The district plans on enhancing its intervention based teaching, targeting students who are struggling in certain areas.
“We’re looking at students who are showing they’re behind,” Solter said. “What we need to do is have an immediate intervention to work on them, so it doesn’t linger and they get further behind. We do an analysis of the child, and if they’re not getting it, they get extra attention from another teacher in small group settings.”
Public schools in the district are entering the third year of their S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) academy as well. North Bergen High School’s culinary arts program will also advance into its second year.
“We’ve been doing a lot of different things – we’re not only learning in the classroom, but going into the field with what they learn,” Solter said.
Physical improvements are also on hand for students and educators. North Bergen High School will see the installation of synthetic turf this year, for example. “Right now, it’s just dirt and grass, and it’s not really that great,” Solter said. Each auditorium in the district will get air conditioning, too.
The district continues to work on plans for the high school to move in 2019 onto the property that now holds the county’s High Tech High School on 85th Street and Tonnelle Ave. High Tech moves into a new Secaucus campus in 2019.

Educators gearing up

What have educators been doing over summer to prepare for their charges?
“When they come back, we’ll be doing professional development trainings,” Solter said. “We give our teaching the option to do trainings over the summer, but I really just want the teachers to just recharge their batteries so they’re ready in September. Some teachers do training on their own.”
Solter added the district limited its new initiatives this year, on purpose. “We put a lot of initiatives in the last four years,” he said. “I want to hone in on what we have and enhance the initiatives in place.”
Once school begins, Solter will also hold a parent night in the schools, where he will talk to different parents. “They hear from me, and I just listen to them,” he said.
The district includes seven schools: Franklin Elementary School, Horace Mann Elementary School, John F. Kennedy Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School, McKinley Elementary School, Robert Fulton Elementary School, and North Bergen High School. The six elementary schools serve grades 1-8.
Guttenberg high school students attend NBHS as well.

Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com