Getting Set for Safety at Hoboken Catholic Academy

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.

Related:

Environmental Impact of Hurricane Sandy on NJ

Where Are All the Families? Hint: Not the Suburbs

Going Undercover at Calabro

 


kathyzucker_roundKathy 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.

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Kathy Zucker

Author: Kathy Zucker

Mom of 3. Accidental entrepreneur. Fencer. New York Life Shorty Award #KeepGoodGoing winner & judge. Helping parents & kids get to work since 2010 as Metro Moms Network CEO.

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14 Comments

  1. Do you have a citation for the top 200 public schools ranking? I wasn’t able to find one after an (admittedly) quick search. Also, if it’s HoLa you’re referring to, there was no heating oil leak inside the school, but rather flood water that was contaminated from the oil leaks at the train yard – the same stuff that was in everyone’s basements. HoLa was cleared by both a private and state agency for re-entry.

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    • Kathy Zucker

      Sarah, the top 200 ranking is in the first paragraph of the Middle States letter: “Hoboken Catholic Academy was one of approximately 200 schools so honored by the two Commissions.” The commission operate throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, their website says, “Historically, MSA-CESS has operated in the mid-Atlantic region (Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia); with its cooperative partners, it has expanded its scope to include schools and institutions seeking accreditation throughout the United States. The Commissions also award accreditation to member institutions in more than 85 countries around the world.” http://www.msa-cess.org/RelId/606486/ISvars/default/About_MSA-CESS.htm

      Yes, I am referring to Hola re. the school that experienced a heating oil spill. An 11/3/12 article on Hoboken Patch stated, “Puddles of water containing oil residue were still visible on Friday morning.” The article also said, “The back yard, which previously had been blooming with fruits and vegetables that were planted and cared for by the students, was covered in a thick layer of oil.” http://bit.ly/15gUudO

      Glad to hear Hola was cleared by the EPA, can you please provide a link to documentation? I have spoken to numerous parents living in the immediate vicinity of Hola who were told by visiting officials that the heating oil leak originated from the Boys and Girls Club. The facility has a documented underground heating oil tank. http://bit.ly/111p2vE

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      • I am having trouble reading/understanding the NJDEP site that you reference. Can you explain to me where it reads “documented underground heating oil tank”. It could be there, I just don’t know how to read the document. It also seems it is NFA (No Further Action). Doesn’t this mean it was cleaned up to the DEP standards?

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        • Kathy Zucker

          To the best of my knowledge, all Hoboken schools were compliant with code prior to Hurricane Sandy, which means they were safe for students to occupy. We do not yet know all the repercussions of the impact of Sandy on Hoboken, as evidenced by the ongoing water breaks.

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          • Again, could you just point me to exactly where that report mentions am underground heating oil tank. I am not able to find it, and I can find no open case on the site that houses Hola. Thanks.

          • Kathy Zucker

            The list at http://bit.ly/111p2vE is titled “Underground Storage Tanks (UST) NJ UST Contamination Sites County Index.” Case #00-02-24-1310-28 is BOYS & GIRLS CLUB OF HOBOKEN, 123 JEFFERSON AVE. This is the facility that houses Hola.

    • Thank you Kathy for pointing out the title. I thought I was going crazy. Right in front of my eyes. That said, the NFA date is back in 2001. I am assuming that means it has been “cleaned up” to DEP standards for more than a decade. Not to harp, it is just that I know many families who live in the area and I have not heard any express that the oil on top of the sandy waters was from Hola. To the contrary, I have only heard it came from the train yards and/or submerged cars. Though, much like your article, it is only what I have heard, not anything that is public record or could be reported as fact.

      I find it hard to believe that the DEP or anyone in any power would sign off on sending kids back into a school which could harm them. Is that your contention? If so, who exactly do you think is behind it?

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      • Kathy Zucker

        You are welcome, glad to help connect the dots. In many instances, people do not know the cause of oil contamination. In some cases, the oil simply bubbled up to the surface during Sandy. I do not believe any school officials knowingly placed students into dangerous situations. However, I do believe that the situation after Sandy was chaotic and school responses varied widely. Wrote about it at http://bit.ly/11sViYG

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  2. Thanks for posting your source for the ranking, however, I disagree with your interpretation of it. I interpret it to mean that HCA applied for accreditation from MSA-CESS, was judged to meet the criteria for the accreditation, and was awarded accreditation, along with 200 other schools in the same year. MSA-CESS does not rank schools, or review all schools programs. Like other accreditation organizations, MSA-CESS only determines whether or not an applicant meets its accreditation standards, or not.

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    • Kathy Zucker

      Hi, Cat. 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

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  3. MSA-CESS is not a ranking organization. The accreditation as I understand it is for schools that continue to improve, not schools that are somehow the best on the East Coast – a ranking that doesn’t exist. I wish HCA all the best, but I think it’s better to be very clear when throwing statistics around. The Boys and Girls Club has a small empty oil tank in the back garden. The millions of gallons of contaminated water that flooded downtown could hardly have been caused by an empty oil tank. Again, sourcing seems important here.

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    • Kathy Zucker

      As I stated, there were multiple instances in Hoboken of heating oil spills during Sandy. All I know is that multiple homeowners in the immediate vicinity of Hola had oil contamination on their properties and were told by visiting inspectors that it came from the school.

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      • I am confused by your comment “All I know is that multiple homeowners in the immediate vicinity of Hola had oil contamination on their properties and were told by visiting inspectors that it came from the school.”. I have not heard or read this anywhere. What exactly is your source for this information?

        Post a Reply
        • Kathy Zucker

          A number of parents contacted me in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to ask about oil contamination – all stated, unprompted, that the source of contamination came from the facility housing Hola.

          Post a Reply

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