When Jersey City’s 38 public schools open for the new school year on Thursday, Sept. 9, changes will be noticed in the school district by children, parents and employees, including new schools, new programs, and new staff.
Families across the city prepared themselves for the upcoming school year on Aug. 28 when a back-to-school giveaway took place at three locations – County Prep High School on Montgomery Street, Lincoln Park on the city’s west side and Audubon Park on Bergen Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard – where schoolchildren picked up free school supplies.
However, the school district did not go completely into hiatus even though children and teachers had a two-month break.
The Board of Education was embroiled in controversy over extending the contract of schools superintendent Dr. Charles Epps for another two years. The contract needs the approval of Hudson County Superintendent of Schools Timothy Brennan before the board can vote for the extension.
“I just want to stay in the program.” – Fantasia Johnson
Waiting in line for back-to-school supplies on a warm Saturday afternoon in Audubon Park was Samantha Chess, along with her goddaughter, 11-year-old Fantasia Johnson. Johnson will be enrolled in the sixth grade this fall at Middle School 4 on Bright Street in downtown Jersey City.
Johnson, who will be in a special program for high achieving students, said she was a “little nervous” since it was her first year in the program.
“I just want to stay in the program,” Johnson said. “Things will be harder this year because while I will be in the sixth grade, I will be learning seventh grade work.”
Chess said she just wants the best for young Samantha, whom she called a “talented young lady” and for her to stay an “A student.”
Also waiting in line was Miranda Mayo who brought her five-year-old grandson Jalen Mayo, her nine-year-old grandson Eric Person, and her 11-year-son Kabrin Mayo. She also has two 17-year old sons entering their senior year at Snyder High School on Bergen Avenue.
Mayo was concerned about funding cuts to the Jersey City school district. The district was cut over $30 million by the state. The cuts, Mayo said, could have an impact upon her sons and grandsons entering into the new school year.
“I am worried with the schools suffering from these cuts,” Mayo said. “Will there be enough books, enough computers and other things in the schools?”
She also wants an “overhaul” of the school system starting with the ouster of Dr. Epps, whom she feels has been in his job “too long.”
Her son Kabrin, who will be in the sixth grade at Public School 40 on Ocean Avenue, said he is “excited” about his future math and reading classes and seeing classmates from his previous school, Public School 15 on Stegman Street.
Changes in the schools
Jersey City school district spokesperson Paula Christen said last week the new school year will feature some new elements.
Ferris High School on Merseles Street in downtown Jersey City is expanding. A new Ferris Junior Academy opens in the Mercer Street building adjoining the high school, which until last year was Public School 9. The approximately 200 students from that school were relocated to schools in the area such as Public School 3 on Bright Street and School 5 on Merseles Street.
A new school, Infinity Institute on Old Bergen Road, will open this fall, serving about 100 top-achieving students in its first year in grades seven through nine. The school in the next few years will expand to grade 12 and is structured similarly to McNair Academic in downtown Jersey City, one of the premier high schools in the state.
Also, Middle School 41 on Ocean Avenue opens this year as the Martin Center for the Arts, a performing arts magnet school for elementary school students. And Christen said the school district’s arts program is relocating from New Jersey City University to Snyder High School, already structured as a performing arts high school.
Christen said 25 new teachers were hired for middle and high schools, and 13 employees in the school district’s office on Claremont Avenue were transferred to other positions within the schools.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at email@example.com.