Seven years ago, I started talking to every parent I met in Hoboken, NJ with older children. The message at that time? There are a ton of educational options in Hoboken and you can hop from school to school until you find the right fit for your child.
Three years ago, when my oldest child was entering kindergarten, I discovered so many families were staying in Hoboken that the odds of getting into a charter school were the same as winning the New Jersey Megamillions Lottery. My daughter was receiving an excellent education at Hoboken Catholic Academy (HCA), a school with soaring test scores and the only elementary school Middle States certification in Hoboken.* We decided to keep her there until a charter school spot opened up. With one kid enrolled, our younger children would be shoo-ins for kindergarten admission due to sibling priority. At that time, we were told that tons of spots opened up in second grade.
This year, the game changed again. A second grade spot? No longer a sure thing.
The annual Hoboken school shuffle starts each January, when private and charter school applications are due. Charter school lotteries are drawn in mid-January, with private school commitments made in February. Public school registration takes place in March.
So what did this year’s school haul look like for my family?
As of March 2013, my kids were registered to enter kindergarten and second grade this September at HCA. They were #6 and #5 on their grade wait lists at Hoboken Charter School. My older child was #1 on the Calabro wait list and the younger had been registered for kindergarten during open public school admissions at Brandt, indicating Calabro as our top placement preference.
In July, we heard that both our children had been accepted to Calabro. Because a second grade spot opened up, my older child was admitted and pulled her younger brother into the Calabro kindergarten, where there are typically the most open slots since it is the lowest level offered. We registered both kids at Calabro and withdrew from HCA. We forfeited the $600 registration fee and one month of tuition but consider that we got off lightly – many private schools require parents to sign contracts guaranteeing payment of the entire year’s tuition no matter what.
And the charter school situation? As of August 1, we still have not heard from Hoboken Charter. With many students not residing in Hoboken and a policy placing non-resident siblings ahead of residents, the odds are low of both my children being admitted for September.
What can parents expect? After talking to numerous school officials and parents, it appears fifth grade is the new second grade. With many parents pulling their kids out of public and charter schools to attend the Hudson School, Hoboken residents can walk into any school and register their fifth grader on the spot.
* CORRECTION: This article originally incorrectly stated HCA was the only Middle States certified school in Hudson County. Two Hoboken-based high schools are also Middle States certified. The complete list of certified Hudson County schools is located at http://www.msa-cess.org/default.aspx?RelId=606553
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. Read her MomCondoLiving blog, follow her on Twitter (@KathyZucker), or friend her on Facebook.