Union City students will return to the public schools on Thursday, Sept. 7, while West New York students return Friday, Sept. 8. What can kids and educators in both districts look forward to?
In many cases, they can look forward to new buildings and new technology.
Union City Superintendent of Schools Silvia Abbato and West New York Superintendent Clara Brito Herrera shared what’s in store this year in their schools.
Locals may have noticed construction on a building at Kerrigan Avenue, between 16th and 17th Streets over the past two years. Sara Gilmore Academy, a grade 1-8 elementary school, is moving to that building from its previous location at 815 17th St. A schoolyard for Gilmore’s original location previously occupied the construction area.
Gilmore will become a magnet school for the gifted and talented, whereas before it was a regular elementary school.
It will feature a new multi-media center, greenhouse on the roof, STEM room, and solar panels. The students will attend starting this week.
The district had planned a soft opening for the community to see the school on Sept. 5 and a grand opening some time in October.
The STEM curriculum will also be expanded at Colin Powell Elementary, Veterans Elementary, and Thomas A. Edison Elementary. The schools will have STEM rooms featuring 3-D printers and robotics.
Some schools will also receive hydroponic labs in coming years to grow vegetables. Emerson Middle School will be first to receive the labs this year, and Edison Elementary will follow next year.
The district purchased interactive Promethium whiteboards for lower-grade students this year. These boards allow teachers to project images from laptops and desktops, and feature interactivity via touch or specialized pens.
“It’s similar to an iPad on a larger scale,” Superintendent Silvia Abbato explained. “The students can do activities collaboratively on them. Anyone between six to 12 students can work on a board at the same time.” Teachers also spent the summer training on how to use the boards, Abbato said.
In other school news, the district has hired eight retired police officers to protect its larger elementary schools.
West New York
West New York students will also see building upgrades. The Harry L, Bain Elementary School is set to reopen Sept 5, after two years of closure while work was done. The NJ Schools Development Authority paid $15 million to rehab the school.
“The work was at no cost to West New York taxpayers,” Superintendent Herrera confirmed.
The construction introduced new windows, new ceilings, and new lighting, taking advantage of natural light outside. “The students will have a much nicer and safer place to work in,” Herrera said.
Bain will also feature 56 Promethium whiteboards — one for every classroom — and Google Chromebook tablets for its students. This will bring it in line with all other district schools that already use both technologies. Bain is located at 6200 Broadway.
Incoming ninth graders in the district will go the new West New York Freshman Academy, located at 5400 Broadway. It will relieve crowding at Memorial High School, and is situated near the high school campus.
The building will also help transition students into high school culture, Herrera said.
Memorial High School will see a new, full-career STEAM academy. This, Herrera said, will “prepare our students for engineering, architectural, and science careers.” Previously, the district only held STEAM as an afterschool program. A pilot STEAM program is also coming to West New York Middle School.
Speaking of that, new and expanding afterschool initiatives are coming this year. They’ll include robotics in every elementary school; Makers Spaces (do-it-yourself areas for creating) at all schools; and expansion of CSI (Crime Science Investigation) into fifth and sixth grades. This year, each school will have access to open access technology labs.
Elementary district teachers this year will start using the common planning time method. This means they will come together for professional development, learning from one another and collaborating on projects leading to improvements in lesson quality and student achievement.
“It works,” Herrera said. “It’s very motivating for teachers to be at the forefront of their professional learning.” Middle and high school district teachers already use the method, she said.
Students can also expect to deal with a shift to the New Jersey Student Learning Standards Curriculum for the new year.
Hannington Dia can be reached at email@example.com