Elena Nikovaz said her two children had been dreading last Tuesday morning more than anything.
"They kept putting it off and putting it off," said the Weehawken single mother. "They said they had to go swimming or to the parks or something. But enough was enough. They had to go [Tuesday]. No more putting it off. They needed to get ready."
Anthony and Sylvia Nikovaz were going shopping with their mother for back-to-school clothes and supplies. Tuesday, the Nikovaz family hit the Mill Creek Mall in Secaucus and loaded up on notebooks and pencils and new clothes - albeit reluctantly.
Just the mention of that three-word phrase brings joy to parents and sadness to youngsters.
"The summer went by so fast," said 12-year-old Anthony Nikovaz. "I had fun and wanted to have more fun. Who ever wants to go back to school?"
Well, like it or not, the first school bell will ring officially Wednesday morning, when Weehawken's 1,200 students, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, return to classes.
The first three days will be one-session days, with the students returning to full-day sessions on Monday, Sept. 8.
Weehawken Superintendent of Schools Kevin McLellan is prepared to have another successful school year in the district.
"I am really looking forward to an outstanding school year," McLellan said. "Our staff is ready to go and I'm anticipating more of the same success we've enjoyed in recent years."
When Weehawken's students return to school Wednesday, they will notice some significant changes, both in the buildings and in the curriculum.
As reported in last week's editions of the Weehawken Reporter, there is a massive renovation and restoration project underway in the district's schools, beginning with the high school gymnasium. The improvement work will continue in all three of Weehawken's schools during the course of the school year.
In terms of curriculum, Weehawken High School students will be treated to different electives, including an advanced placement class for statistics that will be open to high school juniors this fall.
"We'll be training them on research statistics to get them ready for college," McLellan said. "They will learn tools to conduct research and will be able to do research material on the college level."
The statistics class will be the eighth AP class that the school offers.
"I don't know of any other school our size that offers that many AP courses," McLellan said. "Last year, in the AP courses we offered, 76 percent of our students scored a 3 or higher on their AP exams, which means that those students were able to receive college credits on the college level. That meant that their parents wouldn't have to pay for those credits when those students go to college, which is a huge savings."
Beginning this fall, Weehawken High School will be offering two courses in conjunction with St. Peter's College, thanks to the efforts of Board of Education member Dr. Joseph McLaughlin, who also serves as the director of graduate programs at the Jersey City school.
Weehawken High students can now take Poetry & Drama and Perspectives on Politics.
"If they pass a test at St. Peter's, then the school will offer college credits that can be transferred to other colleges as well," McLellan said. "It's a junior and senior elective that the teachers have been coordinating with the people at St. Peter's. The state Department of Education encourages districts to form partnerships with local schools of higher learning. We hope this is the beginning of a great relationship between us and St. Peter's College."
The Roosevelt School students, grades three through six, will enjoy a new social studies series that encompasses a new textbook and meets the core curriculum standards imposed by the state Department of Education.
Each school's technology laboratory will feature upgraded equipment that will enable students to receive and upload information at a faster pace. More than 75 computers have been fitted with this upgraded equipment.
"We always feel that a certain amount of funds have to upgrade our technology," McLellan said. "We have to keep on the cutting edge."
This school year will mark the final year that the school will offer half-day sessions in pre-kindergarten. Beginning in 2004, there will be full-day sessions for the four-year-old students at Webster School, as per state mandate.
McLellan said that there has only been limited turnover in personnel, with two teachers retiring from last year and only four having to be replaced.
"I think we're able to offer an education that is as good as any private school," McLellan said. "Our standardized test scores are among the highest in the state and the courses we're offering are outstanding. It should be another great year for us."
If only it could start a little later for kids like Anthony Nikovaz, who is reluctant to let summer slip away.
"Man, I wanted to go to the shore or visit Wildwater Kingdom or something," Anthony said. "I don't want to go to school."
Some things are just too unavoidable.