Hudson affirms plan to close city school next year

HUDSON–School consolidation, the Drum Line, school executives, bleachers and preparation for after graduation received attention at the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting Monday, September 11, the first meeting since classes began for the 2017-18 school year.

Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier confirmed that this is the anticipated last school year for John L. Edwards Primary School (JLE) on State Street. In September 2018, using current projections, pre-kindergarten through 5th grade students will all go to the Montgomery C. Smith building (MCS), currently the intermediate school on Harry Howard Avenue.

Preparations for this consolidation already taken include moving the 6th grade from MCS to the junior high in 2016 and the moving of 2nd grade to MCS this month.

MCS needs an addition to accommodate the grades still at JLE: pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and 1st grade. Dr. Suttmeier said at the meeting that the district would open bids for constructing the addition the next day.

Along with the district’s consolidation from three to two campuses, expected changes include four additional bus runs. “It is reasonable for our youngest students not to be waiting for over half an hour after school ends,” said Dr. Suttmeier.

The Hudson High School Drum Line won two of the first place trophies at this year’s Columbia County Fair in Chatham. Contestants came from all over the state and included adults, according to Dr. Suttmeier. Five drummers accompanied by band teacher Scott Vorwald performed at the September 11 board meeting. Mr. Vorwald said they had met once a week all summer.

Drum Roll members at the meeting were Matt Cowan, Aiden Doto, Jeff Exil, Connor McCagg and Caliegh Parmentier.

JLE Principal Steve Spicer, MCS Principal Mark Brenneman, junior high Associate Principal Alyssa Sabbatino, and high school Principal Antonio Abitabile reported at the meeting that the first week of school went “smoothly” and expressed excitement about their hopes for the year ahead. Mr. Brenneman thanked Buildings and Grounds Superintendent George Keeler and his crew for helping to prepare for 2nd graders. “Going from 450 students last year to 600 students this year is a big change,” he said, adding that “the second graders have been great.”

Dr. Suttmeier announced she was “working with an architect” to see about more seating at the new Bluehawk Sports Complex. The first football game, September 1, attracted about 700 spectators and “was standing room only”—even with supplemental temporary bleachers. She said that “when we were pinching pennies” because estimates were high school officials decided more bleachers could be “an add-on later.” Dr. Suttmeier explained that at the time, “We decided not to sacrifice the scoreboard and the fence.”

Board President Carrie Otty reported going to a football game at a school that had a greater seating capacity, and found “they still had people standing around.”

Dr. Suttmeier called the high school’s new field and gym “complete.” The work now being done focuses on landscaping and road access. A farewell ceremony for the old field (Barrett Field) is scheduled for Wednesday, September 27, before the bonfire and celebration for the Bluehawk Sports Complex, which is scheduled for Thursday, September 28. Both ceremonies will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The superintendent also spoke of the need to prepare students for college and careers. “My goal is that no graduate from this school will go into remedial classes in college. If they do, they accumulate debt without credits,” she said. The District can test juniors “to see where they might fall short,” but Columbia-Greene Community College would also help.

In addition, Dr. Suttmeier said of the district’s program emphasizing graduation, “Destination Graduation is not an end point. It’s a start.” She urged additional career preparation programs for students not already in one of the programs currently offered, describing it as “Destination Graduation to occupation.”

The focus points should include student attendance, especially in the high school. “If you’re not here, you’re not learning.”

Also at the meeting:

• Mr. Abitabile expressed hopes to “literally pull students out of study hall and put them in ancillary classes. The more students we can put in credit classes instead of study hall, the better”

• Mr. Abitabile and Ms. Sabbatino discussed training staff in restorative discipline

• Coordinator of School Improvement April Prestipino announced, “The Federal government has voted to restore Title 2 grants,” intended for class size reduction, which the district has used for some kindergarten teacher salaries. For 2016-17, she reported, the district received $176,000, but for 2017-18, it received only $87,000. Ms. Prestipino said she does not think the latest vote will increase “our allocation this year” but might raise future amounts

• Dr. Suttmeier said that Solar City would begin constructions on district property to supply solar supplemental energy to the school buildings.

The next meeting of the HCSD Board of Education will take place Tuesday, September 26 at 6:30 p.m., at the Hudson High School Library. The day is a Tuesday instead of the usual Monday meeting date.

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