New Jersey parenting message boards are raging with discussion about the status of Hoboken Catholic Academy (HCA). I have children in preschool and first grade there, and the last year has been a challenge since the school was severely damaged in October 2012 during Hurricane Sandy – the kids are still evacuated, although the administration is back in the facility at 7th and Monroe as they ready it to be reoccupied starting in September.
I re-registered my kids for next year at HCA. The heating oil spill was worrisome and has taken an incredibly long time to clean up, but because the school has taken every precaution, I am not worried about the building safety. The EPA has been in there continually testing the air quality (heating oil emits dangerous vapors) and the school administration would not be back in there unless the air was clean. There was no oil in the building itself, it leaked into the soil below the school.
There were numerous instances of Hoboken heating oil leaks during Sandy. I have spoken to a number of homeowners who said they could see the oil contamination as the floodwater shifted by passing firetrucks – it looked black and sticky. I am actually much more concerned about those other areas since I know at least one other school that experienced heating oil contamination, and the kids were back in school within two weeks. I am assuming the contamination was slight and easily remedied, but when you consider that Hoboken Catholic Academy took seven months to clean up their oil spill plus it usually takes 4-6 weeks to get environmental test results back, the timeline comparison is troubling.
A major part of the reason why I re-registered my kids for Hoboken Catholic Academy is because of the academics, which are superb. The school is Middle States certified and ranked in the top 200 elementary schools on the east coast. At $6k/year, I consider it to be the best bargain in the Hoboken area.
My life strategy is to establish a baseline level that is sustainable. That meant finding a stable living situation (we bought a 4BR in SW Hoboken and have enough space to never be forced to move) and also a school situation. The HCA certification applies to all the grades, all the way up to eighth grade. I would have no problem sending my kid there until high school, and am looking at St. Peter’s Prep, the Hudson School and High Tech High School once they reach high school age.
Each year, I also register my kids for charter and public school options so we can potentially upgrade. This year, my kids are high on the waitlists at Hoboken Charter School and Calabro. Both schools are academically solid, the main reason why we would move is because my daughter is doing very well in school and spots open up starting around second grade. Once she gets into a program, my other kids will get in through sibling priority and we can put the tuition money toward college savings. I plan on keeping my preschooler at HCA in kindergarten so we maintain a good relationship in case things don’t work out at the new school for my older child.
I would NOT be looking to move my kids if my daughter wasn’t doing so well in school. We transferred to HCA in PK4 after a bad experience in the public preK program, and her teachers have been amazing. Mrs. Peterson in first grade is patient, kind and has my daughter eager to do her homework. She started reading in the first semester and now is reading capably (no more hiding games and movies from her!)
I have not met the new principal, Matthew McGrath, but parents who have were very impressed. Frankly, I heard a lot of complaints in the past about HCA not communicating well, so Mr. McGrath has an opportunity to make the community feel more involved.
There are no guarantees in life, but I feel fine about sending my kids back to HCA next fall.
Update, 5/30/13: Hoboken Catholic Academy released student standardized test scores yesterday – there was a marked rise from 2012 despite a year of evacuation from Hurricane Sandy. You can see the complete Terra Nova scores at http://www.hobokencatholic.org/.
I have received a number of questions about the HCA Middle States Certification. I did some research into Middle States accreditation two years ago, talking to numerous educators in NYC, and my understanding is that receiving the accreditation is highly prestigious. The application process is arduous, taking institutions years to complete. The commission tours the school and reviews the curriculum to determine its quality – not every applicant who applies is accepted. To the best of my knowledge, Hoboken Catholic Academy is the only elementary school in the Hoboken area to have Middle States certification, you can see the accredited list at http://bit.ly/13YXht4. The nearest NJ school on the list is located in Edison.
Kathy Zucker, CEO of Metro Moms Network, mother of three young children and winner of the New York Life Keep Good Going Shorty Award, writes about juggling career and family in an urban setting. Subscribe to MomCondoLiving.com, follow her on Twitter (@KathyZucker), or friend her on Facebook.