Hoboken has to be grateful for having a visionary at the helm of its public schooling system. Hoboken’s Public School District Superintendent, Dr. Christine Johnson is exactly that – a visionary who sees the potential to turn the public school system in Hoboken into one of the best in the country. The proposed new High School is more than just a new high school but an overhaul of the entire education system we have in place. Speaking to Dr. Johnson makes you realize how much thought and planning has gone into designing this new school. She and our capable Board of Education have looked at the issues our district faces top down.
What we have at the moment is an elementary school system that is growing rapidly and many parents who have realized that we have excellent prospects and want to stay in town for middle and high school. Given this, the proposed plan is a terrific and well thought out response to the impending issues this school district faces.
The proposed plan includes:
1. Building a new high school
2. Moving kids from the middle school building to the current high school building
3. Turning the current middle school into a 4th elementary school and finally,
4. Creating more space for PreK
It’s literally killing 4 birds with one stone (although I’ve personally never liked that phrase, it’s very apt here).
Many question the price tag of $241 million and raise issues on this subject. This is healthy debate. Dissent is good. Dissent is how we grow and maintain accountability. So let’s speak of the issues we think this might present that I hear around town:
Taxes: Everyone is talking about tax increases due to this new proposal. Yes, it’s a big price tag to take in at first glance. But really, let’s put things in perspective. How much are we speaking about here? We are speaking about a home assessed at a million dollars getting a tax increase of about $77 a month, if this proposal does go through. Is that a whole lot? I mean, it’s literally what take out would cost one night for a family of four. And it’s really not all that much to offer your kids the well rounded education they deserve to have.
Does this tax increase drive out the economically challenged and increase segregation? No, it does exactly the opposite. This offers every kid in town access to facilities that otherwise would cost parents a pretty penny. It offers the same services to every kid in town and will make it a level playing ground for all. The tax increases are primarily borne by the more affluent, who in turn, can easily afford the minimal increases they see on a month to month basis on their tax bill.
How does this help give our kids a better education? Education is so much more than just academics, although Hoboken lately has been moving towards the best academic programs. With two kids in elementary school, I clearly see where we are heading with some excellent programming, access to a great gifted and talented program (by way of a tie up with Johns Hopkins CTY), and getting every kid the help they need to meet and excel at every grade level with Individualized Learning Programs being implemented over the past few years. Academics is definitely forging ahead in this district. But a well rounded education includes good facilities for sports, science labs, college counseling, libraries, and great academic programs. All this requires space and a state of the art facility at the high school level, when it is key to a child’s future, as they look towards college or vocational training or whatever paths their talents take them down.
Operating costs: Many question the operating costs this new high school will create. In fact, with a state of the art, energy efficient high school, operating costs will, in fact, be much less than trying to spend money revamping our old facilities. In addition, the proposed high school will be a source of revenue for the district in some ways as some of these facilities may be able to be rented to other organizations over weekends and other times that school is not in session.
Parking: The new high school has 110 parking spots, which pulls 110 cars off the streets of Hoboken, creating more parking space for a city cramped for parking.
Water Retention: We all know Hoboken has an insane flooding problem. There is provision for water retention in the proposed new high school, helping alleviate some of the flooding issues. The new High School would hold as much water as the SouthWest Park in a storm.
Don’t have a kid in school? Having a better school district will drive up property values. In addition, it will offer you access to facilities in the school off school hours.
Our kids deserve the best! I take offense to parents who question if their kids deserve a state of the art high school. Every kid absolutely deserves the best facilities they can have access to. They are our future. Education is our future. Let’s put our money into making our future world a better place for all!
Shweta Gursahani, a parent with two children in Hoboken public schools.