The school administration is considering major realignment changes for next school year that could impact virtually every student within Hoboken’s public school district. Dr. Mark Toback, superintendent of schools, said that the changes revolve around the creation of a middle school – grades six through eight – something which has not existed since the 2006-2007 school year.
This week, the administration plans to mail out surveys to district parents asking for feedback on the major reconfiguration idea. Following the collection of feedback, the district will hold information sessions with parents.
Although in its preliminary phases, the idea primarily calls for Thomas G. Connors School, at 201 Monroe St., to be transformed into a middle school that would serve students grades six through eight.
“There has to be a real thorough review of current staffing and future staffing needs in order to implement the plan.” – Marisa Lau
“The students would have things that they don’t have now,” said Toback. “[There are] specific clubs, activities, and other things that are typical to middle schools and those are very nice things.”
School board Vice President Ruth McAllister also that the creation of a middle school could help better customize academic programs.
“Combining our middle school grades in one building will allow us to offer a much more diverse and individualized curriculum,” said McAllister in an email.
Toback also said that the system would alleviate overcrowding at Wallace School, which currently has seventh grade students taking classes in trailers adjacent to the building.
“Part of the reconfiguration [is that] we have to get students out of the trailers,” said Toback. “Construction of a [new] middle school is not part of this plan. The district already has ample facilities to house the students we have.”
Toback also said that the district would only hire new middle school teachers if necessary. Instead, certified teachers could be shifted to teach at the Connors middle school.
“We would have to look at the certification of every teacher,” said Toback, adding that since the plan is only in its preliminary phase, interested teachers within the district have time to get certified to teach middle school grade levels.
Parents and school board members reached out to The Reporter to express their feelings.
“It doesn’t sound like a bad idea,” said Marisa Lau, an elementary and preschool parent. “There has to be a real thorough review of current staffing and future staffing needs in order to implement the plan.”
Joann, another parent who preferred to withhold her last name, said that she was “definitely” against the idea, adding that the previous district middle school was ignored.
“The middle school was pretty much forgotten [about then],” said Joann. “When a [student] had to go into middle school, they pretty much feared it.”
Joann also said that Connors is an undesirable option for a middle school.
“It’s the one school that still needs to be renovated, and it’s in an area where a lot of parents don’t want to send their kids,” continued Joann.
Joann said that many students live closer to Salvatore R. Calabro and Wallace schools, and that Connors school is located too far from the downtown PATH station, where parents typically commute to work.
“I think [the idea] is just making it harder on the parents [by] separating the kids,” added Joann, “if you have more than one child that you have to take to school in the morning.”
Toback said that 15 to 20 parents have sent in emails expressing similar ideas, which will be considered if the plan should be formulated.
Board of Education member Peter Biancamano said that feedback is the key to devising a plan.
The district needs to spend the time to ensure faculty, parents and other stakeholders are receptive to this proposal,” said Biancamano in an email. “Active community participation is key to the success of this proposal.”
Board member Leon Gold said that the reconfiguration could unify the school district.
“[The plan creates] a united school district, with all the children [per grade] going together,” said Gold. “Also, there’s a lot of evidence indicating that if you have a middle school, the test scores improve.”
Changes from the current system
Under the current system, grades eight through 12 are assigned to the High School; pre-k to seventh grade are assigned to Wallace, Connor, and Calabro schools; pre-kindergarten to kindergarten is assigned to Brandt and Demarest schools, the latter of which currently only contains charter school students.
The reconfiguration could assign grades one through five to Wallace School, restore the High School to a pure nine through 12-grade format, and assign pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students to Calabro and Demarest School.
The current administration offices at Wallace School would become space for the district’s autism program. The offices would be relocated to Demarest School. Joseph F. Brandt School, which currently contains pre-kindergarten to kindergarten students, would likely remain the same.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at email@example.com.