The Target store seemed unusually crowded for a Tuesday evening. Apparently, Hurricane Irene had delayed the back-to-school shopping trips of several Jersey City families. So on Tuesday, there they were, picking up backpacks, lunch boxes, notebooks, and other basic necessities kids will need on Sept. 7 when the public schools reopen for the fall semester.
“I wanted to do this last weekend. But we stayed inside all weekend ’cause of the storm,” said Janice Bryce, who was buying sweatclothes for her 9-year-old son, Jay.
When asked if he was looking forward to returning to school, both mother and son said “Yes” in unison. But Jay’s response decidedly lacked enthusiasm.
“I like sports. I like playing basketball and volleyball,” said Jay. He added that “Social studies is okay,” when prompted by his mother.
“I like school. I get kind of bored over the summer.” – Sabrina Joy
“He does pretty well in his social studies classes,” noted Bryce.
Sabrina Joy, an incoming Dickinson sophomore who was also shopping with her mom on Tuesday, was a little more enthusiastic.
“I like school. I get kind of bored over the summer,” she said. “I mean, I like the [summer] weather. But there isn’t anything to do, really. There are some people I’m cool with who I don’t get to see over the summer. It’ll be good to see them again.”
Math is her favorite class because Joy likes “working with numbers. I think I want to be a nurse and you probably have to be good at math and science to work in a hospital and with patients and medicine.”
‘A time of mixed emotions’
Jay (whose mother did not want to give his last name) and Joy are two of the roughly 29,000 students who attend the Jersey City Public Schools. That number doesn’t include the thousands who attend the 10 charter schools that also open on Sept. 7, as well as the religious schools that open on other dates.
Becca O’Keefe’s daughter Natalie will start first grade at Cornelia Bradford School this week. The young mother, who moved to Jersey City shortly after Natalie was born, said she is “guardedly optimistic about the public school system…There does seem to be an air of negativity that creeps into conversations about the schools in Jersey City. But I’ve talked to a lot of parents who have older kids in the public schools and I think it just really varies. I think there probably are some bad schools in the district, but I’m not convinced they’re all bad.”
O’Keefe said she plans to be an active parent who is involved in her daughter’s school, which she hopes will keep Natalie’s education on track.
In the meantime, O’Keefe, who was among the bargain hunters who clogged the aisles at Target on Tuesday, is just an excited parent looking forward to her daughter’s first day of “real school…I’m a bit nervous. But it’s exciting, too. This begins a new chapter for her, in her growing up, in her education…It’s a time of mixed emotions for me I guess.”
Josh Timmons, a father who was trying to prevent his son, Joshua, from putting every Magic Marker in their Target shopping cart, did a better job of hiding his apprehension. But he, too, said he couldn’t believe Joshua is “starting first grade. Feels like just yesterday we were here buying diapers for him…I’m excited for him to start school. He’s really smart. He reads well, has good reading comprehension…This is a pretty cool time in a kid’s life ’cause this is when they really start having a life that’s separate from mom and dad.”
Joshua will be attending the Golden Door Charter School, which recently expanded and moved from its old location downtown to the former home of St. John the Baptist on Kennedy Boulevard. Due to Hurricane Irene the school, one of Jersey City’s first charter schools, had to push back its opening day to Sept. 8. Students are now expected to show up on the 8th and 9th for two half days before full school days begin next week.
Sonda Monroe, another back-to-school shopper and the parent of twin third graders, understood how O’Keefe and Timmons feel. But, she said, “Those feelings pass. This time next year, they’ll be over it. I know I am. I can’t wait for them to be out of the house.”
While Monroe sized up and priced jeans for the twins Dante and Devin, the Reporter tried to ask the pair how they felt about going back to school.
Devin, the seemingly shyer brother, declined to answer. But the more outgoing Devin responded, “It’s grrrrrrrrrreat!” before challenging his twin to a race down the aisle.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.