Rosie Reyes was busy one day last week, getting her two sons, 10-year-old Alberto and 6-year-old Luis, ready to go shopping with her. The boys knew the ritual and the methods of their mother's madness.
"We got to go back to school next week," Alberto said. "We got to get things for school. That really stinks."
While Alberto had no interest in purchasing new clothes and getting new supplies to be ready for the first day of school in Weehawken, scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 4, Luis was different.
"He's excited," Rosie Reyes said. "He loves school. He wants to go back. He missed his friends. He spent a month in the Dominican Republic this summer and wanted to come back to go to school, because of his friends. Alberto wants to play. Luis wants to go to school. They're so different."
Be it as it may, the Reyes family was not alone last week. Hundreds of Weehawken families were hitting the local shopping outlets, getting their children ready once again for the first day of school. While the summer solstice slipped by, perhaps even without fanfare, another school year managed to sneak up on Weehawken's approximately 1,400 students, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
While teachers return Tuesday for staff meetings and orientation, the school year begins in earnest with the first school bell Wednesday morning.
For the first three days, students will attend only half-day sessions, but will begin full day sessions on Monday, Sept. 8.
According to Superintendent of Schools Kevin McLellan, the upcoming year shapes up to be an exciting one - even if the students might disagree.
"At the beginning of every school year, the staff is full of enthusiasm," McLellan said. "They can't wait for the year to begin."
Ah, but you can't say the same for the students.
"Well, I think they're excited, too," McLellan said. "It should be an exciting year."
McLellan said that Roosevelt School students (grades three through six) should see many physical changes when they return to school.
"We repaired and resurfaced the flooring of the school and repainted the classrooms," McLellan said. "We also purchased some new student fixtures and desks for the classrooms. We upgraded the fluorescent lighting, to make the rooms brighter. This was part of our annual process to upgrade the facilities. Last year, it was Webster School [which houses pre-kindergarten through second grade]. This year, it's Roosevelt."
In terms of educational changes, McLellan said that he is happy to announce the formation of a chess club at Roosevelt School.
"We always try to build on a student's critical thinking, and I believe chess is a good way to develop those skills," McLellan said. "I believe chess adds to education and has a lot of value. It enables students to experience their critical thinking skills. We had received some suggestions from the school's Parent-Teacher Organization and we considered it a possibility, and we will institute it this year. The students will benefit from it."
At the high school, golf will be instituted as a varsity sport for the first time.
"Many of the schools we compete against [in the Bergen County Scholastic League] have golf programs," McLellan said. "This will be just another way for our athletes to exercise their abilities. We believe that we have enough interest to field a team. We haven't worked out specifics, but I think it will work."
Because there isn't a golf course in Hudson County, McLellan and the Board of Education will have to find a suitable home course for the students to play and practice on in the general vicinity. The closest public course is in Teaneck, but again, some arrangement would have to be made to allow Hudson County residents use a Bergen County facility at a reduced cost.
Another new program that will be instituted at the high school this year is the formation of a Future Teacher's Club.
"With an increasing demand for new teachers and to encourage students to venture into the field of education, we figured that this club could be a good way to expose our students to the field," McLellan said.
Under the guidance of Board of Education member Dr. Joseph McLaughlin, a professor of education at St. Peter's College, the students will be able to attend seminars on teaching, thanks to a grant secured by McLaughlin through the college.
"The program will introduce students to what's required in becoming a teacher," McLellan said. "They will learn about the National Teacher's Exam earlier than most students and will get a chance to meet and talk to college professors at St. Peter's about careers in education."
Carol Clancy will serve as the teacher advisor for the new program.
The district welcomes seven new teachers, who have either replaced retired teachers or those out of maternity leave.
"Between the physical improvements and the new programs, we feel we're ready to start another school year," McLellan said.
Which is not what Alberto Reyes wanted to hear.
"I'm not ready for the summer to be over," Alberto said. "I don't want to get up early. This is really horrible."
For Alberto, as well as the 1,400 other students in town, time's up. The school bell's about to ring.