When North Bergen students return to classes on Thursday, Sept. 6, they will be staying in their current buildings for another few years, despite talk of plans to move high schoolers to a new campus.
However, the North Bergen Board of Education is continuing its efforts to transform the former High Tech High School campus on Tonnelle Avenue into the town’s new middle school by 2020 or 2021, according to Steve Somick, the district’s business administrator.
That school will house grades seven through nine when it opens, relieving the overcrowding at the current high school on Kennedy Blvd.
The former High Tech High School campus moved this year to Secaucus, leaving the building available for new students.
The state Department of Education is currently reviewing North Bergen’s plan to determine its PEC, or preliminary education cost. The PEC is the state’s estimate for what their share of the cost for the plan will be.
Once they have an estimate, the district may seek county approval to hold a special voter referendum to fund the project, Somick said. Should all go accordingly, the new school would hold a groundbreaking ceremony in March of 2019.
Officials would also issue small project bids for to plan, including new elevators and playgrounds at the town’s grammar schools, and air conditioning, windows, and a state of the art library at the high school.
North Bergen currently has a pre-K school, an all-kindergarten school, six other elementary schools that include seventh and eighth graders, and the high school on Kennedy Blvd.
Somick was unable to provide cost estimates for the plan, saying he’ll have a better idea once the PEC comes in, possibly in the next few weeks.
“We have a lot going on.” – Steve Somick
What’s in store?
The district wide reconfiguration plan originally called for North Bergen High School to occupy the High Tech campus. In turn, the new middle school would’ve occupied the current NBHS campus. However, officials have since changed the plan.
When the new middle school opens, it will host Career Technical Educational programs such as construction management, automotive technology, and medical arts.
It will be known as the district’s East Campus. The NBHS campus will remain as is, and will serve as the district’s West Campus, holding grades 10 through 12. Some of the high school kids can also head to the middle school to participate in the CTE programs.
As overcrowding is relieved in the district, the pre-K students who attend classes inside trailers at Braddock Park will instead occupy the town’s grammar schools. The trailers violate state laws against using public parkland for non-recreational purposes, and the state has ordered North Bergen to remove them by 2021.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. George Solter said that public transportation is more easily accessed at the North Bergen High School campus. Tonnelle Avenue’s dangerous traffic patterns—the street sees heavy traffic from large vehicles—were another reason officials wanted to keep the high school where it is. They plan on busing kids between the schools, and are petitioning the state for a slow zone in the area.
The district is also working on a series of capital improvement projects for the new school year. Roofing projects at Horace Mann Elementary, Robert Fulton and the John F. Kennedy School began over the summer, and are finishing up.
New exterior and interior doors, with security cameras, are coming to Lincoln Elementary and McKinley Schools by March, Somick said.
The district also installed a new gym floor at Horace Mann, which should be finished by Sept. 1.
“It’s a busy year,” Somick said “We have a lot going on.”
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org