‘Drone academy’ for JC students

Board of Education discusses new programs, talks about heat in schools

Five Jersey City schools will participate in a new program for the study of drone technology. A drone is a small remote controlled flying device that can be used for a number of tasks.
The new program in the schools will involve teaching kids out to build and operate drones as well as the mathematics behind their development.
Originally, a drone referred to an unmanned aircraft preprogrammed with a flight plan. These aircraft, similar to the gasoline powered models that used to be operated by wire, would fly either in a straight line or around in circles.
Drone technology, however, has since advanced into a much more complicated field of study and can accommodate any remote controlled device that includes robots or vehicles on air, land, or water.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles said at the Jan. 19 school board caucus that the board approved a pilot program for the potential development of a “drone academy.”

“It was so cold in School No. 38 students were wearing jackets inside.” – Gina Verdibello
The cost to the district for the five schools is $50,000, which will come out of district funds, about $6,000 of which will go towards training teachers.
While some high school students will have the option to eventually work on larger drones, the program will start off with smaller devices known as “pencil drones” in the lower grades.
According to Schools Business Administrator Luigi C. Campana, the district wants to start small in order to build up interest among students for the program.
“We would then develop after school club,” he said.
If this proved successful, then the district would launch a larger program.
“The district will be working with the Liberty Science Center,” Campana said.
The program would be multi-faceted in that it would involve study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, commonly called STEM education.
The pilot program is expected to be overseen by Dr. Norma Fernandez.

Heat problems in some schools

Several parents, including former Board of Education candidate, Gina Verdibello, said some schools lacked heat earlier this year.
“It was so cold in School No. 38 students were wearing jackets inside,” Verdibello said, asking what the district is doing to monitor heating issues, and if heat is on over weekends.
Campana said the heating policy has schools pre-heated three hours before students are scheduled to arrive if the outdoor temperature drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Over 40 degrees, we do not preheat,” he said.
Since trailers – which are used for classrooms outside a number of city schools – use electric heat, they are not preheated.
Heat is kept on over the weekends, Campana said.
School Trustee Lorenzo Richardson, however, said some schools had heating issues when students returned after the holiday break on Jan. 4.

Committees established

Board President Vidya Gangadin named committee chair people. Gangadin reestablished the committee system after being named president last year. Prior to that, the committee system had been abandoned in favor of open caucus discussion, raising complaints that issues were often overlooked or neglected as a result.
Richardson was named to head the Student Equity Committee; Micheline Amy, to Pensions; Marylyn Roman, to Instruction; Reichart, to Faculty; Torres, to English Language Learning; Ellen Simon, to Policy and Communications; and Gangadin named herself as chair of the Finance Committee.
Gangadin appointed Gerald Lyons to head the Special Education Committee, but Lyons declined the position.
“I asked earlier not to be named to the Special Education Committee,” he said. “While I have a lot of respect for the staff, I see it as basically a waste of time.”
He said he would consent to head one of the ad hoc committees, so Gangadin named Lyons to an ad hoc committee dealing with diversity issues.
Last year, the district came under significant criticisms for failing to set aside days off for Muslim holidays, and issues that Lyons had championed.
Roman was also named to chair an ad hoc committee dealing with vocational training.
Meanwhile, Gangadin said she Torres, and Roman, along with Superintendent Lyles, were part of a committee to improve communications with the City of Jersey City.
“We haven’t yet met,” she said. “We’re still waiting on the mayor.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com.

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