According to North Bergen Superintendent of Schools Robert Dandorph, students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will have to wear uniforms by Oct. 15, as will students in Guttenberg's sole elementary school, Anna L. Klein School.
"It's a social equalizer because some children cannot afford very fancy clothes," said Dandorph.
He recalled that as a child in North Bergen, he sometimes felt he did not have the same wardrobe as his fellow classmates. He believes the uniforms will even out the playing field at North Bergen's elementary schools.
Both Dandorph and Guttenberg Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ramos believe that the change will also boost school safety.
Ramos said that the uniforms will help the faculty differentiate between their students and the outside public. "I had a meeting here [with] more than 500 parents, and they were all very enthusiastic about the uniform policy," said Ramos.
North Bergen has increased their computer education program in all of the schools to 10 teachers, whereas two years ago the department only had two educators.
Dandorph said that 35 teachers worked on the new computer-oriented curriculum for the last two years. "It's a very nice tool for the teachers to use that gives them a guide for what is going to be taught during the rest of the year," he said.
The district also realigned its entire curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade.
On Sept. 3, each teacher will receive a disc that contains the complete curriculum for this school year. The program includes special attention to areas like math, language arts, and social studies.
They will also be utilizing quarterly testing software made by Scantron that will test children in third through eight grade four times a year, to see how they are improving academically.
"The teachers will get a phenomenal breakdown on how their kids did in math and language arts, and it helps the parents know what they need to teach them," said Dandorph.
Guttenberg will also enhance computer education in its elementary school. (Guttenberg is so small that its teenagers attend North Bergen High School.)
Ramos said that there are now Apple computers in every classroom. "What's coming down the line is, we are in the process of constructing a new computer lab," he said.
While playing at James J. Braddock park last week, North Bergen third grader Jasmine Blanco, who attends the Fulton School, said that she was excited to return.
"I like computers," said Blanco. "We learn how to type and sometimes write reports."
New after-school program
Fulton and Horace Mann Elementary School in North Bergen will host a pilot program for children up to the fourth grade from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
If the program is a success, Dandorph said that it will be held at other elementary schools.
The program will be run by Jewish Family Services and will cost parents approximately $175 a month.
The first hour will focus on help with homework, the second will be held in the gym, and the last hour will be arts and crafts.
Other changes in Guttenberg
Anna L. Klein will now have a closed lunch, where children must stay inside the building unless they are signed out by their parents.
Ramos said the school has bought new cafeteria equipment and have increased their menu offerings to be more "kid friendly."
Four trailers will also be built soon in the school's courtyard for kindergarten classes. They also hope to build two playgrounds and a baseball field behind the school.
They have also made the transition to block scheduling, to allow more time with math and language studies.
Looking forward to the school year
Both administrators said they were looking forward to the school year and to the future challenges in improving their schools.
"We've been busy, and everything is going to be good," said Dandorph. "We're really proud of what we've done over the last year and we're setting new goals."
Ronaldo Lopez will be going into the sixth grade, while his little brother Eddie is starting kindergarten.
Eddie would rather stay at home with his mother Lorena, but Lopez is excited to go back to school. He said that social studies was his favorite subject because of it involves a lot of history.
"I'm excited [for school] because you work a lot," said Lopez.
Comments can be sent to TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com