This Wednesday, March 6, the Hoboken school district will hold a parent meeting to discuss the possibility of a middle school, something Hoboken has not had in 10 years.
Currently, the district model is divided into kindergarten through seventh grades. Eighth graders attend Hoboken High School.
The idea on the table is to relocate the three seventh grade classes from Wallace School, Calabro School, and Connors School to join the eighth graders at the high school building on Clinton and Ninth streets. Then, the seventh and eighth graders would be sectioned off and taught as a junior high.
“I don’t know that there are any other kindergarten through seventh and eighth through high school models in the state,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Toback. “And it’s not unusual to have a junior senior high school which is seventh and eighth and then ninth through twelfth.”
“The seventh and eighth graders would be in their own part of the building.” – Mark Toback
“The seventh and eighth graders would be in their own part of the building,” Toback said.
Why a junior high?
The district had two middle schools 10 years ago: Brandt School on Ninth Street and Demarest School at Fourth and Garden.
“The district then went to only one at Brandt school and then finally none,” Toback said.
Toback said that the primary reason for the restructuring would be academic.
Toback said there are not enough eighth graders to accommodate a junior high program.
“We want to restructure to meet the needs for that age group of students,” he said. “With a middle school we could introduce electives and honors classes that aren’t currently available to seventh graders.”
These electives could include wood shop, video production, and more world languages, he said.
Toback also said that parents have very real concerns deciding whether to stay in Hoboken or move based on the current district models. He feels with more learning options for the seventh and eighth graders, parents may keep their children in the district.
The public school system in Hoboken also includes three free charter schools, but not everyone can get in. Students are picked by lottery from the pool of applicants.
Other middle school options
One idea was to have a middle school at Connors on Second Street and Monroe according to Toback, but only half the parents supported it. The idea was to make Connors a stand-alone grade 6, 7, and 8 middle school. The plan called for Brandt and Calabro to be converted to a PK-K Early Childhood Center, Wallace to a Grade 1-5 Elementary School, Connors a grade 6-8 middle school, and HHS would be a true 9-12 high school. There were concerns about every grade being moved and about transportation – in particular for elementary students attending Wallace from the south part of town.
“We figured if 50 percent of parents were opposed, it was flawed,” he said.
Toback continued, “The other option would be to build a stand-alone middle school which would cost millions of dollars, but that’s just not realistic.”
The school district has steadily lost students over the past few decades, due to the decline in large families in Hoboken. However, families with small children are starting to stay in town again.
“Right now we are operating at capacity in all of our K-7 schools,” he said. “We have a very large current kindergarten and a very large kindergarten class coming in.”
Toback said a middle school would free up classroom space in other schools.
If the classroom space was freed up at Connors school, this could potentially create the space to move the Sandy-displaced HOPES Pre-K class from Brandt school back to Connors, an issue that elicited a lot of controversy last month.
The next steps
Currently, the teachers have been issued a survey in order to collect their opinion of the restructuring. The next step will be the parent feedback meeting on Wednesday, March 6 at Hoboken High School at 7 p.m.
Depending on what they hear, the district will decide whether or not to proceed with step three, getting feedback from the students.
When asked how he thinks the students will react, Toback said, “I used to be a middle school principal. There is usually an initial anxiety, and within an afternoon, they adjust.”
Amanda Palasciano may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.