Bayonne’s public schools open with a bang on Sept. 9 as the school district finishes work on various projects and introduces innovative programs for the new school year.
Last March, Gov. Jon Corzine came to Bayonne to launch a statewide program for upgrading aging schools, a significant problem because some schools are almost 100 years old.
For Bayonne, this meant a $6 million matching grant that covers about 60 percent of the needed $10.6 million to make the upgrades to Bayonne High School and nine local elementary schools.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan said reconstruction of restrooms and repairs to aging exteriors commenced after the closing of the schools in June and it has been a race against the clock in order to have the work completed by the first day of school.
Even a week before school doors open, workers scramble to get the last of the work done.
“Each school is progressing at a different rate,” she said. “But we hope to be done.”
DARE is back
Along with improvements to windows, bathrooms, and other brick and mortar items, the district also sees a series of new programs, and the restoration of one very important program from the past: DARE.
“Thanks to IMTT, we will be able to offer a program in robotics.” -- Dr. Patricia McGeehan
The restored program will include the educational aspects of DARE, but not all of the social activities.
She said the program will start up again in October and provide drug abuse prevention classes in the fifth and seventh grades.
The program was eliminated due to a shortage of police because of budget constraints, which forced the police department to suspend its Cops in Schools program – of which DARE was a component.
New programs include a study in robotics
New programs on the educational front include a new freshman scholarship program and the upgrading of labs at the high school, including the construction of a new one, Dr. McGeehan said.
This year, biology becomes a required course of study. So the high school is providing more space to accommodate the additional students taking these courses.
A group of teachers this year attended special classes at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken in anticipation of new engineering classes to be held at the high school.
Students can take pre-engineering courses at the high school starting this year, and connected to this will be a new robotics program for those who qualify. IMTT, which is one of the district’s largest donors, has given a donation that will help kick off the program.
“Thanks to IMTT, we will be able to offer a program in robotics,” Dr. McGeehan said. “It is our dream to get involved with robotics competitions.”
Also kicking off this year for the first time is Bayonne High School’s Academy of the Performing Arts, which will allow a group of students to work together for four years with the focus of developing their skills related to performing arts.
Outreach will also be a focus, as teachers will work on video programs to be broadcast on the school district’s cable access station, allowing the general public to get an idea of what each program is about.
Test scores, dress
Dr. McGeehan said the district intends to raise expectations and go beyond just the basics, while at the same time make sure test scores improve.
The once controversial dress code seems to have become accepted throughout the school district. Feedback, Dr. McGeehan said, has been very positive.
The new year will see a very large freshman class.
“We’re welcoming 740 new freshmen to the high school this year,” Dr. McGeehan said. “So you can expect things this year to rock.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.