In order to accommodate students who might not or cannot attend college, the Jersey City school district is about to establish a vocational training program.
School Board Trustee Marilyn Roman, chair of the Vocational Committee, said during the board’s Jan. 20 meeting that a large space has been set up at Dickinson High School to accommodate the foundations of a carpentry program.
The space at Dickinson is being converted into a shop-like setting that will allow students to get hands on experience in carpentry.
While Jersey City and other school districts used to provide shop classes as part of the regular curriculum, many of these ended when school districts refocused to steer kids to college instead.
Bayonne recently joined with the Hudson County Schools of Technology to provide a center for industrial trades, and Jersey City appears to want to follow a similar route – and will include some professionals from the county facility in Bayonne as part of their effort to reintroduce studies in the construction trades.
Roman carpentry is one of two new programs proposed to provide options for students who may not want to go to college. Some equipment previously located in Public School No. 4 has been moved over to Dickinson.
The second program that would teach students to renovate old houses is closely aligned to the carpentry program, Roman said, and might allow students from the one program to get involved in local house renovations and get paid for their efforts.
“These students will learn skills. But this doesn’t exclude them from going to college if they want.” – Marilyn Roman
“They’ve taken it down to the beams,” Roman said.
Some of the students are from Lincoln, and others from Dickinson.
Plans call for the students to do the electrical and plumbing work as well as install new walls. They will build a new kitchen and so some siding.
Roman said the students are at work hand in hand with members of the Hudson County Building Trades union and other professionals, which include some of the Hudson County Schools of Technology educators who operate out of Bayonne High School.
Roman said the district hopes to recruit students for an expanded program next September.
“These students will learn skills,” she said. “But this doesn’t exclude them from going to college if they want. Some may be able to go to college to study construction management.”
Students in the house rehab program will be paid out of Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).
Landscaping program will be expanded as well
A third program in landscaping may also be expanded. Currently, students do landscaping work around the Dickinson High School campus, Roman said.
That program’s operations may be expanded and could even include work on sports areas such as Caven Point – an area most agree needs to be spruced up.
“Students from all over the state go there to play,” Roman said.
She said the program is currently in a pilot phase, but she hopes to expand it next year.
Roman said students need to apply to this alternative program, which is open to grades 9 to 12.
It is currently funded by a grant but she hopes to increase funding through CDBG as well.
“I would like us to get a partnership with a college such as Cook College,” she said.
Schools Trustee Gerald Lyons, who has been a strong proponent of alternative educational programs, said these and other programs are necessary, and asked that the district seek state and federal funding to cover the cost of teachers involved in such programs.
Lyons also suggested that students involved with the landscape program might get involved with the numerous community gardens located throughout the city.
Trustee John Reichart said students might also be allowed to work on some of the many vacant lots in the city as way of to make them more appealing.
“It is a real challenge for developers like the one I work for to find students to do this kind of work,” he said.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.