Hudson schools adapt to first phase of grade relocations

HUDSON–Late-summer arrivals of new students, construction on school grounds, free college for high school students and school year opening remarks highlighted the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting Monday, September 12.

The session marked the first school time the board has met since classes started for the 2016-17 school year and this is the first year the 6th grade will be in the junior high instead of the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School (MCS). Ian MacCormack, who last year served as associate principal for both MCS and the junior high is this year full-time at the junior high.

“At least 15” students for whom English is a new language registered in the district in the past two-and-a-half weeks,” reported April Prestipino, coordinator of school improvement. Most, she said, are “concentrated” in kindergarten through grade 4 and come from Central and South America. Until they came, most immigrant children who enrolled in the district in recent years have come from Bangladesh. The newest students are in addition to those who registered for kindergarten later than expected, as reported at the previous school board meeting.

So far, the new arrivals do not affect staffing decisions for either regular instruction or English language learning. Kindergarten now had 130 students, reported Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier. With six teachers for that grade, class sizes average between 21 and 22 students. Kindergarten enrollment still falls short of that in the previous two years, when there were as many as 150 kindergarteners. District enrollment has been dropping overall in recent years. Dr. Suttmeier said that the district has nine teachers for English as a New Language and the flexibility to add a tenth.

Construction should begin on the high school grounds in April 2017 and at the MCS site in June 2017, said John Sharkey of Rhinebeck Architecture, which is designing the district’s capital improvement project. Construction at the high school will include parking and access reconfiguration, artificial turf on the athletic fields and a running track. Rhinebeck Architecture suggested that the new facilities will be ready for use by September 2017.

Construction at MCS is to include 63 more parking spaces, a second access road from Harry Howard Avenue, air conditioning, window replacement and an addition, as well as managing drainage and stopping erosion. Rhinebeck Architecture suggested that new facilities will be ready for use by September 2018. The building currently serves the intermediate school but plans call for it to serve grades from pre-kindergarten through 5th, with the addition needed to handle the extra grade levels.

Drainage management will involve underground pipes and water tanks. “There’s a lot going on that you won’t see,” said Jeff Budrow, a professional engineer with Weston and Sampson.

Board members expressed concern about facilitating drainage while increasing the extent of the pavement, how much of the building’s lawn will remain with the new parking and access roads, whether the addition would accommodate a future increase in students, and whether two specific trees will really survive the construction. One of these trees is an oak, one a sycamore.

The addition planned for the building has its critics. “It’s as ugly as sin,” said a board member. “We have such a beautiful original building.”

Mr. Sharkey said the firm had sent the plans to a group with knowledge of historic preservation and was told that the plans are acceptable.

In other business at the meeting:

• Fifteen high school seniors are taking courses for both high school and college credit through the Bard Early College–Hudson Initiative, reported Michael Sadowski, the initiative’s director. Classes take place on the corner of First and Warren streets, in Hudson. The students take three courses: two each for which they can earn three Bard credits and one that does not earn credit but helps with college applications. Students from the Hudson City School District (HCSD) pay no tuition; those from other districts pay tuition to HCSD

• Administrators reported on the first days of the school term and stated goals for the year. Steven Spicer, principal of John L. Edwards Primary School, expressed a goal of getting 75% of the second graders reading at or above grade level

Mark Brenneman, principal of MCS, announced that the percent of students with no disciplinary problems has increased from 60 to 80

Derek Reardon, principal of the junior high, says that taking on the 6th graders “has so far been fantastic. The 6th grade kids look comfortable. There are no issues.” The 6th graders rarely cross paths with the 7th and 8th grade students during school. Mr. MacCormack, the junior high associate principal, said, “We’re losing instructional time to students checking cell phones” and announced the development of a form for teachers to report cell phone intrusions

Antonio Abitabile, principal of the high school, announced a series of talks for the students by people in “non-traditional career paths.” He hopes for six such talks a year. The idea for these talks came from Hudson Alderman John Friedman (D-3rd Ward).

Robert LaCasse, associate principal of the high school, announced the development of a template for “positive referrals.” With it, he hopes, students can be sent to his office for not only discipline but also praise

Kim Lybolt, director of student services, expressed the “hope we can provide special education students more opportunities to mingle with general education students and take general education classes.”

The next School Board meeting will take place Monday, September 26, at 7:00 pm, in the Hudson High School library.

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