What’s new at school?

Principals, parents excited about upcoming year

Secaucus public school students go back to class on Thursday, Sept. 8. That day and Friday Sept. 9, are half days for all students. Elementary students can expect new classrooms, and the middle school students and high school students are now under one roof. Clarendon Elementary School is giving away free coffee and juice to parents who drop their students off on the first day of school at the main entrance.

Elementary schools

“We lost our sixth grade senior class,” Clarendon Elementary School Principal Steve Viggiani said last week. “Fifth graders are the seniors now.”

“We’re looking forward to a successful school year, and positive change.” — Principal Steve Viggiani

Sixth graders now attend the middle school building next to Secaucus High School instead.

According to Viggiani, Clarendon now has an updated reading series that helps teachers monitor and meet the needs of all students. There’s also a new writing program called Empowering Writers in which students learn to write and take advantage of resources like dictionaries.

There are plenty of after school programs to look forward to like band, chorus, drama, dance, and newspaper club. After school, children can play on the new playground built next to the building. The playground built over the summer is designed for students with special needs, like those with a mobility challenge and younger students. The basketball courts located next to the new playground have been redone with new pavement and hoops.

“We’re looking forward to a successful school year and positive change,” Viggiani said.

Over at Buchmuller Park, Clarendon second grader Genevieve Blas, 7, who is gearing up for school, said she enjoyed her summer vacation and looks forward to making new friends. She also said she’s going to try Girl Scouts and softball this year. “I love sports,” she said.

Huber Street second grader Niranjan Ghanekar, 7, said he’s been in art and tae kwon do classes at the Recreation Center this summer.

Resident Julio Roman and his wife Cheyenne, who works in Huber Street School, said the school system is doing well. Their children, who are in college now, also loved summer programs at the Recreation Center like softball, kickball, and swimming.

“Secaucus education is some of the best I’ve ever seen, talking with kids and my kid’s friends,” Roman said.

Middle and high school

Resident Amiya Garcia, 12, who was practicing for soccer tryouts at Clarendon last week, is excited to start seventh grade at Secaucus Middle School this year. “Art and painting are my favorite subjects,” Garcia added.

Her father, Robert Garcia, said, “This is her first year getting on the bus. It’s right across the street, and she’s responsible.”

According to high school Principal Dr. Bob Berckes, the middle school has eight new classrooms located where the old custodial parking lot was. The middle school has a separate entrance on the first floor, and all classrooms are located on that floor. The high school is on first floor on the opposite side with classrooms on that floor. All the classrooms on the second floor are used by the high school.

 “It will be like entering a brand new building,” he said. “Driving up to it, parents and students will see the parking lot and road are paved. The main offices are in a new wing.”

Dr. Bob said to get to the main office, make a right though the main doors. “When you enter the main doors the office is on the right, and it’ll lead you to the principal’s offices, guidance offices, and guidance secretaries.”

Across the hallway from the main office and guidance are additional classrooms and a green lab. The green lab has a lab for science classes, and a greenhouse inside.

“The cafeteria got a new facelift too,” Berckes said. “It used to be a cafetorium with a stage. We took out the stage, gutted the area, cemented the floor, and made the area larger for incoming sixth graders.”

All the grades will use the new cafeteria. According to Berckes, the sixth graders will eat lunch by themselves, and other grades will be group together.

There are now two gymnasiums for gym class, and new lockers for the athletic department. “The old gym was renovated and downsized by removing bleachers on one side.” The old gym is now called the red gym, and the new one is called the blue gym with the Hallway of Champions connecting them. The Hallway of Champions has new trophy cases from awards won during the school’s existence.

“The new gym is completely new, with a new fitness center that has locker rooms for athletes, and separate locker rooms for physical education students,” Berckes said. “The locker rooms are designed for more privacy now. Before when you opened the doors, you can see right through, but now there’s a wall next to the door.”

“It’s a nice athletic complex to serve the needs of the school’s physical education,” Berckes said. The high school and middle school classes each use the gym for four periods, but they are never together. “This allows teachers to give adequate instructions, and students can learn in a safer environment, when before we couldn’t do that,” Berckes added.

The new gym and fitness center lead to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) labs, two classrooms, and a classroom used for health education or driver’s education.

Berckes expects all students to attend the first day of school, Thursday, Sept. 8, in complete uniforms.

“Classes start at 7:30 a.m.,” he said.

Berckes said the 56-minute-long classes are the most ideal learning situation for middle school and high school students. “The class consists of lectures and project-based learning where students are working in pairs solving equations for real-life situations,” he said. “Sometime students are too shy to ask a teacher a question, but not with their friends.”

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