HACKENSACK, NJ -- As a parent of two and soon to be three public school children and a former educator, Hackensack Councilwoman Stephanie Von Rudenborg is taking a stand against a $170 million school construction referendum taking place this Tuesday.
“We all recognize that our schools desperately need major repairs and upgrades, but this plan creates adverse educational issues and is also much more expensive than necessary,” said Councilwoman Von Rudenborg. “We have to vote this down on Tuesday so the Board of Education can come back with a smaller, smarter and less costly plan for voters to consider.”
The councilwoman particularly opposes the plan to create a new middle school for Grades 7, 8 and 9. “As a former educator, I strongly believe that ninth graders should be in a high school, not a middle school,” she adds. “They need to begin adapting to a high school environment and their grades count towards college acceptance. They should be part of the entire high school experience, from attending sporting events, participating in clubs, striving for AP classes. They should not be grouped with grade school children.”
Von Rudenborg points to the ongoing efforts by Maywood to remove their approximately 250 students and send them to other school districts. “How will Maywood and the other two sending districts react to the news that their high school freshmen will be in a middle school environment. If these students leave, overcrowding would ease and building a new school may not be necessary.”
Von Rudenborg also takes issue with the Board of Education’s “lack of progress” on their efforts to “re-register” every student to make sure that they legitimately live in the city. Board Member Johanna Calle recently said that half of the district’s students have been successfully re-registered and that only four out of town students were discovered. Von Rudenborg considers this statement to be highly misleading.
“About half of the parents have not responded to this survey,” Von Rudenborg explains. “There may be many reasons why they are not cooperating. One reason might be that some can’t prove that they actually live in Hackensack and that our taxpayers should not be paying for educating these non-resident children. This re-registration should be completed before we ask taxpayers to fund a new $100 million school.”
Von Rudenborg also is expressing concern for small children who will have to travel much longer distances to get to their classrooms under the new plan. “If this referendum is approved, every student in grades three, four, five and six will all go to the current middle school on State Street in the Northern part of the city. That means that over 1,600 students would be attending that one school. Since we do not have any school busing, that could be a real hardship for many parents. You could have an 8 year old child who has to walk a great distance to get to school. This is dangerous and undesirable in my opinion.”
The $170 million bond would result in a property tax increase of at least $308 per year for the average resident. Of the $170 million, less than $70 million would go towards repairs to existing schools. The remainder, over $100 million before interest, and staffing and facilities fees, would go toward building a grade 7-9 school.
Residents can vote on this referendum Tuesday, January 22 between 2-8pm.