Hitting the books
New programs, facilities, and initiatives for the new school year
by Marilyn Baer
Reporter Staff Writer
Sep 02, 2018 | 5301 views | 0 0 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SCHOOL
Dr. Christine Johnson
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Over 2,055 students will put down their beach towels and pick up their bookbags to head back to the Hoboken public schools on Thursday, Sept. 6. New programs include a freshman specific program at the high school to help them acclimate, special Advanced Placement, an updated challenge and support program at the elementary level, and a complete overhaul of the curriculum and scheduling at the middle school.

Moving on up

Hoboken High School will launch a new program for freshmen called Freshman Foundations, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Johnson. The course is broken down into four categories. They include academic skills and goal setting, social mindfulness and relationships, self-management and self-care, and safety and digital citizenship.

Johnson said this will help the students deal with the rigors of high school and the transition from middle school to high school.

This year students at Hoboken High School will also take part in the Advanced Placement Capstone program. The full-year program teaches research skills in a classroom setting. Then students will break off independently and hone in on an area of study they are interested in.

“Essentially they will end up writing a high school thesis on a topic or area of interest to them,” said Johnson. “It allows them to be engaged and select what they are interested in and then dive into it holistically.”

This year the high school also expanded its dual enrollment courses, which give high school students college credit. In the past, the program was offered through Rider University and Fairleigh Dickinson University. This year the district has expanded to include New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Johnson said other than obtaining college credit, this program also gives those enrolled access to the resources at these universities, including their libraries. Additional courses this year also include Hispanic culture and history in America, African-American culture and history in America, aerospace engineering, biomedical interventions, AP computer science, and more.

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“The living classroom will be an interactive wet lab and research center based on the Hudson River as an estuary.” – Dr. Christine Johnson

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Middle school overhaul

Johnson said the majority of the large-scale changes will occur at the middle school, at the Demarest building on Fourth Street. These include an outdoor fitness and activity area and a living classroom that will teach students about the Hudson River Estuary. Both will be ready by November.

The new fitness area will replace half of the parking lot at the middle school with climbing structures, a reading area, a small garden and yoga area, a game zone with chess, tabletop tennis, and cornhole (the game), and more.

It will also include an outdoor seating area where students could eat lunch or teachers could conduct classes outside.

Johnson said another possible feature of the park could be “harmony park elements,” which they are researching now. These are outdoor soothing musical instruments that are completely interactive.

“The living classroom will be an interactive wet lab and research center based on the Hudson River as an estuary,” said Johnson.

The classroom will be divided, with part of it set up for instruction and part of it as a wet lab.

It will include wall tanks, tabletop research areas, water-probing stations, and touch tanks for the children surrounded by digital displays featuring the history of the Hudson River.

Johnson said that these aren’t the only changes at the middle school, noting that a new schedule will be introduced this year that increases the amount of instructional time.

This year students will have a block schedule that includes an integrated humanities block which combines social studies and language arts literacy and a STEM block.

“This is important, because instead of going to four different classes and changing periods, we found that we were losing about 28 minutes of instructional time a day during the change in classes,” said Johnson.

This year the students will also have an enrichment period in which students were able to pick from a list of courses at the end of last year.

These include genius hour, maker space, nutrition and fitness, ballroom dance, and more.

Elementary school changes

The challenge and support program that runs for all elementary students will be enhanced this year.

Here students either meet in a classroom, with a RTI (Response to Intervention) teacher, or a gifted and talented teacher, depending on the student’s needs. They receive additional instruction, which either extends the lesson and challenges them, or supports them to get a better grasp on the topic.

While this has been offered in years past, this year the program will include two days of problem-based learning periods, which was only offered to gifted and talented students in the past. “Each PBL lesson will focus on a particular problem they will learn about and they will attempt to unravel it through research and writing and present on it,” said Johnson.

Facility changes at the elementary school level include a small outdoor play surface at Calabro School and a new cafeteria design at Connors School.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

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