As many know, The Hoboken Board of Education has presented plans for a new high school to the Hoboken’s Planning Board because of a significant increase in enrollment and the aging of the district’s school buildings. The new building would be located where JFK Stadium currently is, replacing the existing high school, which would then become the city’s middle school – making the current middle school building the new elementary school. We asked residents to submit/weigh in their opinions on the matter – both in favor of the new Hoboken high school or opposed to the new Hoboken high school.
What You Need to Know
The upcoming referendum vote regarding the proposal for a new $241 million high school will take place on January 25th. You will vote just like a normal election for this special vote.
Note: Hoboken residents can vote on January 25th at their polling locations between 6AM – 8PM.
To confirm your polling location, see here.
If you have an absentee ballot and haven’t dropped it off yet, you can send it in or drop it in any ballot drop box by tomorrow, January 25th. There is one at City Hall, on Newark Street, and another at Stevens located on Hudson & 6th Street.
Sharyn Angley of the Hoboken Board of Education shared the letter that was sent to the community:
Dear families of the Hoboken Public School District,
As has been widely discussed, District enrollment is on the rise. Since 2015, enrollment has grown, while our facilities, many of them built before 1910, have remained static. With enrollment increases and the general age of the District’s existing buildings, long range facilities planning has been a top priority. In addition, the District has been focused on integration of the community and service to the community as part of our educational goals. We are thrilled to present to the community a facilities project, including a new high school, that will meet the needs of our growing population, our academic programs and will provide recreation space that the entire community will be able to enjoy. We are extremely proud that this project reflects our wider goal of bridging our school community to the broader Hoboken community. Project plans will be presented to the Hoboken Planning Board in early December and community meetings will be open to the public in December as well. The special election will take place on Tuesday, January 25, 2022.
Visit the Hoboken District Schools website to find more information about the project including a video, a summary presentation, and FAQs.
Factually, What It Means
- – An expansion of recreational + educational programs (ice rink, competition-size pool, football field, track, two gyms, two tennis courts, culinary arts classroom, art rooms, theater arts + set design shop, wellness studio + physical therapy room, media classroom, and IT lab)
- – Allows for a larger student body (school would have a 1,200-student capacity, up from the current high school’s 1,100 capacity with room to build upward)
- – Costs $330 million – total cost paid over 30 years including 2.2% annual interest on bond
- – The old high school building would become the middle school building
What Residents Have to Say
Based on the responses we’ve received, there is a great divide: residents are both in favor of and against the proposal. Some feel that the focus of the current plan prioritizes sports versus education or that the price tag is too high. Others feel that the new school would be an asset to the community for generations to come and increase property values over time.
HG asked residents to submit/weigh in their opinions on the matter – both in support and in opposition. Read on for 20+ of their responses.
Those in favor say:
“I will proudly be voting YES on Jan 25th! It’s well past the time to invest in our district’s facilities – three of our district schools were built over 100 years ago, and the other two are each over 50 years old. As a community, it’s our responsibility to set Hoboken’s students up for success, and that includes adopting the Long Range Facilities Plan proposed by the BOE to provide the critical infrastructure needed to complement the outstanding curriculum the district already offers. One of the reasons we’ve made Hoboken our forever home is because of the incredible experience my oldest child is already having in the public schools. After reviewing the plan and engaging in information sessions, I have full confidence that the Administration and the Board have done their research, thought critically about the plan, and have developed the best plan for the district while accounting for all our students’ needs within any limitations that exist. And, after all, it’s their job – not the public’s – to tackle such a vital project. I wholeheartedly believe the referendum represents the best plan for this district, and moreover, we need to act now to implement it.” – Nicole Jala
“If You Build It They Will Stay: The challenge for Hoboken isn’t bringing new people into the city, it’s getting them to stay and raise families here. Dramatically improving the school system has been the driver of the change unfolding over the last decade, and the planned high school is the key to keeping this momentum. The big picture is clear: better schools lead to better communities. We have all seen the migration of families west, into the suburbs, in pursuit of better schools. Hoboken’s Pre-K through 8 options have vastly improved, and now it’s time to upgrade our high school to create a truly state-of-the-art facility our kids and our community deserves. Teachers want to teach at the best schools, and this is our chance to attract the best and brightest. In addition to academics, athletics at the high school level are very important, and this proposal has that covered as well. For people concerned about the financial aspect of the high school – the increased real estate value will more than offset the annual tax increase. Ultimately, if we build it, “they” will stay, and our entire community will benefit.” – Stan Zlotsky
“As a Hoboken native who is now raising a family here, district parent, teacher, and taxpayer, I plan to vote yes on the upcoming referendum on the proposed new Hoboken High School. I will do so because Hoboken is a leader when it comes to modern urbanism, and all of our children deserve a campus that will inspire creativity and continue to push our community forward. And just to be clear – the children who currently attend HHS are equally as deserving as those who may attend in the future. I also plan to vote yes because I have faith in the Hoboken Board of Ed and Dr. Johnson to make the decisions that they have been elected and hired to make. I voted for them, and I trust that they are doing their job. Even as a longtime educator myself, I am not an expert in understanding the specific needs of our microcosm of an educational system. You know who is? THE PEOPLE WE ELECTED TO DO THAT JOB.” – Nora Martinez
“It’s Actually Not About the High School. I think we might have lost the narrative on this topic. This project is part of a much larger transformation journey to improve the Hoboken Public School education system and the outcomes for the kids. This includes building a new high school, to expand and improve the physical environment in a way that supports a more robust education curriculum. The new high school is specifically designed to address the needs of the kids by expanding and improving their educational experience. First, the school is designed to expand the growing number of kids. As an example, the 11 specialized learning classrooms and 6 special ed classrooms will be able to properly host the kids. Second, the building is designed to support a more robust curriculum. For example, the different science labs (biomedical, engineering, etc.) will provide an opportunity for the kids to get more specialized hands-on STEM learning. Additionally, the investment will support arts and creativity, physical activity, and wellness. Now the math… The project requirement will be funded by a 30 year $241M bond. For taxpayers, this means $93 per $100K in assessed real estate value. So as an example, if your home is assessed at $1M, your taxes will go up by $930 for the year. The bigger piece of this puzzle is that if we are successful in elevating public school education in our city, property value benefits will far exceed this tax increase. Please learn more and vote YES on 1/25!” – Tatyana Zlotsky
“As a 14-year Hoboken resident and proud parent of three public school students (at HMS and Wallace) I will vote YES on January 25th. The reasons I support the district’s new High School proposal are simple: Obviously, I would love a new, state-of-the-art high school for my children as they continue their educational journey in the district, as well as more space in our overcrowded elementary schools and middle school, but more so, I believe the children of Hoboken – not just those from advantaged socio-economic families – deserve access to a high-quality education. In the name of equity, let’s invest in ALL children, their future, and our community. The investment will benefit everyone, from the children receiving the education, to the tax-paying homeowner property values, to all Hoboken residents who will have access to new community offerings. Yes, there is a cost associated with a YES vote, but I can’t think of a better investment than the children of Hoboken’s future. In the name of equity for all, I vote YES and hope you will too.” – Kate DeCock
“Hoboken is at a pivotal point to decide the future of public education and what it means for our community. When we first moved to Hoboken it was a temporary stop before the suburbs. 12+ years later we are still here and could not imagine raising our family anywhere else. I know this is true for so many. Why are kids having soccer practice on the baseball field at 8pm, with 10 other teams? Why are 3- and 4-bedroom apartments being built all over town, when 10 years ago they were in short supply? Families are staying. Where will these children go to school? How can current facilities keep up with the increased enrollments? Nobody wants an increase in our already high taxes. However, investing in the future of our schools will only strengthen the desire to move to or within our community, resulting in increased property value – positively impacting all homeowners. This isn’t a problem we can walk away from. We can wait a year and let interest rates rise, making whatever is chosen more expensive. We can wait until the pre-school program needs to bus kids out of town because the public schools need the space in district buildings. Or we can recognize that the time to support the future of public education in Hoboken is now and vote yes on January 25th.” – Adrienne Appell
“My name is Grace Shoemaker and I am nine years old and in the 4th grade at Connors Elementary School. I love my school, it is fun and I have a lot of friends. I want to go to Hoboken High School because of fun things like the musicals, science labs, and the Principal Ms. Picc. Hoboken needs a new high school because my school is getting very crowded. We have new kids joining us from other schools a lot who like it too. All kids could use more room. I hope people realize that there are lots of kids here who love our schools.” – Grace Shoemaker
“We are the parents of three sons enrolled in the Hoboken Public School District in 5th, 4th, and 1st grades at Connors Elementary. We will be voting YES on January 25th in support of the referendum to build a new Hoboken High School at JFK stadium. All three of our sons will be attending Hoboken Middle School and Hoboken High School. It isn’t a question, a maybe, or something we are just thinking about. Our family has benefited from public education in our city, and we are committed to staying in the district through grade 12, and we are not alone. Under the leadership of Dr. Christine Johnson we have seen this district transform into a high-achieving powerhouse where teachers work to help all students unlock their potential. We have experienced this firsthand with our own boys, who have made tremendous progress since we switched into district schools at the beginning of last year. This new high school facility will power their continued progress, and set the stage for a new generation of proud Redwings. Their future is worth the investment.” – Sara Green + Kevin Goldberg
“I am voting “YES” in the referendum for the new high school. In fact, I would like to vote “YES!!!!!!!!!” I moved to Hoboken when I got married seven years ago (my husband had been living in Hoboken for a decade prior to that) and we have two children at Connors. I would love to see them grow up in Hoboken while also giving them the best educational facilities possible. I have heard a lot of complaints about the cost and the process of this referendum, but the bottom line is that although Hoboken’s educators are phenomenal, Hoboken’s current school buildings are old, small, and ill-equipped; they need space and the 21st-century teaching tools necessary to educate Hoboken’s growing population of schoolchildren. We could continue to try to retrofit educational tools into smaller, older buildings that need a ton of upgrades (the current HHS was built in 1962), or we could follow this plan that allows our young people to seamlessly grow into updated classrooms that are ready and waiting for them. This proposal is a terrific way to utilize school property to solve for the increased student population at all grade levels–with minimum school year disruption and maximum facilities impact.” – Rosie McDevitt
“I am voting “YES” on the HHS referendum. I’ve lived in Hoboken almost 25 years, and since the beginning I’ve felt that there has been a massive underinvestment in our local school facilities. Many in the “No” camp have reasons for voting that way which will not change over time, including: not wanting tax increases for any reason or because they don’t have children they plan to send to HHS, and people who live next to JFK Stadium who are concerned about their property values. Less than 10% of the Hoboken population has children in the Hoboken BOE schools, and that presents a huge hurdle for this ballot measure to pass. Understand that a “No for now” easily becomes “No, never”, as the “No” camp has publicly called for BOE members to be replaced and Dr. Johnson to be fired, which would be a huge setback for the district. I strongly believe this plan addresses the capacity issues of our school district by adding an additional school building, freeing up Demarest to be renovated into a new elementary school with state-provided funds. The new high school will have state-of-the-art science labs, vocational training areas for culinary arts and stage design, and flexible spaces that can fit the changing educational needs of all high school-aged students in town, not just those who can test into a magnet school or afford private. Community members have for years complained about the lack of recreational facilities, particularly those for teenagers. This plan addresses that, by incorporating recreational facilities that the town either doesn’t have enough of (pool) or doesn’t have at all (ice rink). And the time is right, as interest rates are at historic lows. There is literally no way for the BOE to make everyone in Hoboken happy, as people have divergent interests. Is this the only possible plan? No. But it is a good plan that thoughtfully addresses the space needs of the public schools in a timely fashion as well as the calls by the community for additional recreational facilities.” – Leslie Norwood
“I’m voting yes. As a Hoboken native and a parent who believes strongly in public education and equity, I’m ecstatic that we’re making capital improvements to our district for the first time in 60 years. As the BoE has noted, the number that we’re voting on is artificially inflated to include contingencies. The bid process can’t start until after the referendum, and the bids will undoubtedly be lower. The state would never have approved this plan unless the rising enrollment numbers were verified. A recent op-ed by a politician said that this plan was “a Ferrari when we need a Honda”, which made me cringe. Bayonne High School has an ice rink. Union City High School has a football field on the roof, two art studios, a print shop, a pool, and a TV studio. High Tech has two theaters, a pool, a fabrication shop, a recording studio, and a culinary arts classroom. The HHS plan features art studios, a set-building shop, science labs that better support current programs, a culinary arts classroom, and a digital library, in addition to sports facilities. This is not a luxury car; it’s a modern high school. And Hoboken students deserve one.” – Cristin Cricco-Powel
“I believe we need to redirect the narrative back to the main reason why this proposal is on the table in the first place – to provide our kids with best in class facilities, learning, and holistic opportunities at critical years in their lives that the current schools simply cannot accommodate. The district is making impressive leaps forward under Dr. Johnson, but after further research (resources available on the Hoboken Public School website), we will never be able to reach our potential without investing seriously in our infrastructure. Are there other architects who could come up with a slightly cheaper option? Probably. That said, voting no will not push us back by a month or two… it will likely take 1-2 years before another proposal can be amended, vetted, and reach another vote (and, at that time, there will still be disagreements over the proposal). Voting no because you disagree with 1-2 points in the plan is not pushing leadership to be thorough or consider community input. It’s being contrarian. Our kids deserve better than that, and I think it’s fair to say we can all agree they deserve the best outcome and opportunity that our community can give them.” – Karen Schmidt
“My name is Norah Block and I am in the fifth grade at Wallace Elementary. If this new high school gets built then my class will be the first to experience the building for all four years. I really hope this vote passes because I can see amazing opportunities to come that really excite me for the future. This new school could help everyone because it gives kids more opportunities to learn. I think the main goal of this high school is to prepare kids for the real world after you graduate. Our town hasn’t had a new facility in over 50 years! I know from going to Demarest as a pre-k 3 and 4 student, that building isn’t made to hold a middle school. My friends and I are so excited about this new building and our future with the Hoboken Public Schools. Please vote yes on January 25th. All Hoboken students deserve the best!” – Laura Block
Those opposed say:
“I do not support the new High School proposal as it has been presented. I have been a big supporter of Dr. Johnson but am not a blind follower. I truly believe there is no need for Hoboken to have one of the most expensive high schools in the country. Although the board claims they explored alternatives and would share those details in their FAQs, they have not to date – and the vote is 3 weeks away. This is not an all-or-nothing vote. I know the Board can come up with a better plan that won’t be as much of a tax burden to the community (owners AND renters!), that won’t cover the adjacent park in shade, and that won’t take away outdoor facilities. There needs to be transparency and collaboration between the community and the Board especially with a plan as large and impactful as this one. I will be voting NO to this referendum to force the board to hear and address the community’s concerns. We as a community should come together with the Board to craft a plan that works for all of Hoboken.” – Jennifer Hajjar
“My Fiancée and I are unequivocally supporters of public education. We are both immigrants who came to the United States to seek a better life for us and our families and were able to achieve our dreams thanks to New Jersey’s wonderful public schools and universities. We now look forward to raising our future children in the Hoboken Public School District. Therefore, we are so troubled and disappointed by the Board of Education’s proposal, instead of seeking to promote student success, vocational training, and college preparation, this proposal seeks to use a sports complex facility as a driver of innovation. We need to address rising enrollment in the elementary schools, we need to address the rising costs of living in Hoboken, and we need to renovate our current high school. This proposal is not a wise or cost-efficient way to address any of these concerns and will not achieve any of its stated goals like higher High School enrollment, and all it will accomplish is pricing out current Hoboken Residents. A referendum that was hidden from the public and pushed through in the dead of winter is unethical and undemocratic. VOTE NO, together we can find a better solution.” – Pavel Sokolov.
“Rather than give my opinion on the new Hoboken High School proposal, I would like to give my thoughts on the process. I think we have a grand opportunity for our community to come together and provide our children with an amazing high school experience. Unfortunately, rather than working together many are name-calling and bullying people to try and argue their ‘side’. It disappoints me and I worry that a faulty process will get in the way of an amazing product. I truly hope that rather than name-calling and bullying, there can be more listening and realizing that no side has all the answers. Only by working together, can we get something truly amazing accomplished.” – Leah Mermelstein
“I’m voting no. The process was not transparent – this has been planned since 2019; there have been two November elections since then. Enrollment drops off in middle school – we aren’t using the trailers at Wallace and Brandt, Demarest and Connors are not bursting at the seams – the current high school is way below fifty percent capacity, need has not been demonstrated. Replacing the current high school pool and building a hockey rink won’t improve academics (we currently spend over twenty-five thousand dollars per student, per year on sub-par academics). Our current “success story” is preK – a popular program because it is free/subsidized by the state in the form of Abbot district funding – build this project and non-Abbot districts, already angry about the situation will increase their pressure on Trenton to have us dropped as an Abbot district – the preK students we lose will never enter our public school system also negating any further arguments of overcrowding. Show us a plan to improve the quality of the education we are providing before you ask us to shell out a quarter billion dollars. Then maybe you can sell the concept to the community.” – John Stevens Keim
“I am both outraged and heartbroken by this colossally ill-conceived proposal from the Hoboken Board of Education. Outraged because not only are the projected enrollment estimates exaggerated, but the current high school is well under capacity. Regardless, the taxpayers are being asked to foot a $331 billion bill with no opportunity for the community to collaborate on other, more effective solutions to meet our students’ needs. No, instead we are being rushed to decide over a 2-month period (during the holidays and in the dead of winter) to OK a 4-acre sports complex with some classrooms attached. What about our children? With 13% proficiency in math and 40% proficiency in English, our high school kids deserve more investment in their education and their teachers. Not an ice rink and a rooftop football stadium. Heartbroken because of the inevitable destruction of the quality of life for so many of our neighborhoods. Our open space, our light, our air, our peace, our beautiful Columbus Park. They will be gone forever if this referendum passes. I find that profoundly saddening.” – Peg Dardenne
“I’m confused! I always want to advocate for education but I’m not sure this is the right thing. Will it jeopardize our Abbott District status long-term? Is the facility designed the right one or too big and too focused on athletics? And the alternative is so unclear – what happens if we vote no? I have an MS in Education Policy, yet even I am not qualified to make this decision without much research. This decision should be made by the experts; there must be a better way to make this choice than an up-or-down general public vote. Further, it only makes things worse and more confusing when both sides of the argument are fired up about surface-level nationalized issues, saying things like “public schools and kids matter!” and “wasteful government spending!” that actually have little to do with the highly tactical decision at hand.” – Andrew Brown
“I am completely for our children’s future education and would support any responsible initiative to build that future. The referendum to build a $241M sports complex is an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ dollars with ZERO input from the public and ZERO state financial support. Hoboken elected officials speak so highly on transparency of which there was NONE in this RUSHED SPECIAL ELECTION over the holidays. Vote NO so we can get the school our children deserve. The school board has publicly stated once this referendum does not pass, they will come back with an alternate plan. Hoboken’s students deserve an alternate plan that focuses on the core issues in their education, none of which is the lack of a sports complex.” – Carmine Sodora
“I wholeheartedly support our schools. I do not support the current high school proposal. This pandemic has put us in a constantly changing world, especially when it comes to our schools. We’ve seen fully virtual and half virtual classrooms. Students wear masks, eat lunch outside, use plastic dividers and minimize shared touchpoints. Individual work is encouraged over group activities. Should the new high school have an outdoor cafeteria, larger ventilated classrooms, smaller rooms for breakout sessions? The only certainty is schools will not be the same. We should wait to see how things settle before investing $240million on a new building designed for the old world. Instead of debating raising taxes for a new building, we should debate raising taxes for teacher salary increases. Salary increases ensure teachers can bring their best to work during these uncertain times. It’s less risky, as teachers adapt faster than buildings. And if this pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that a great teacher can be engaging and effective no matter the environment, building, or virtual.” – Melissa Seigel
“I am shocked and dismayed that a referendum to bond for a school development project this important was sprung on Hoboken residents with such short notice. The scale of this project is enormous. This proposal was presented at ‘public meetings’, but concerns raised by parents and residents were completely ignored. A pre-written FAQ on a website is not an appropriate way to answer valid questions from concerned parents. Considering the size of this project, it is more important to get things right than to get things done quickly. I’ve listened to both sides, I’m inclined to agree with those who feel that this is a sports complex first and a school second. Some believe this project will destroy Columbus Park and I agree; this project will have a negative effect on Columbus Park during construction and once completed. The school’s value to our children’s education is questionable at best. Nearly all talking points for this project involve extra-curricular. This school falls short on the improvements it will make in academics. My wife is a Hoboken resident and an architect with a degree from the top school in the country. She designs schools professionally and is putting the final touches on a 1000+ student school in Queens. She would design a much better school than what you’ve shown us. Why should Hoboken children have to settle for a far inferior school than one in Queens designed by a Hoboken architect? Please reconsider this project, we can do better for the children and residents of Hoboken.” – Ian Rintel
What Councilmembers are saying:
“I fully support our school community. I trust our amazing Superintendent Dr. Christine Johnson. I do think our children deserve the best. And I am proudly voting YES for the high school referendum. This was not a difficult decision for me. The best education shouldn’t be only for those who can afford private schools. That’s not the community I want. It has been 60 YEARS since the City invested in the infrastructure of the Hoboken Public School District. Now is the time to make this critical investment — to meet the needs of our expanding student population and prepare our students to be the best. Brandt Elementary School, where my children are enrolled, is over capacity. Connors Elementary School is nearly at capacity. Hoboken Middle School is busting at the seams in one of the oldest buildings in the District.” – Emily Jabbour
“Where I have seen and received close to consensus, and I share those views, is that this process feels compressed and light on the kind of information that would be expected to make an informed decision on what is the biggest taxpayer-funded investment Hoboken has ever experienced – a third of a billion dollars. I have consistently raised this type of concern since I was elected to City Council in 2015 about large, often controversial issues, like out-of-scale redevelopment projects that are put for a City Council vote before the public is sufficiently informed. I would have liked to have seen the process not be pushed over the holidays and at the end of the year that has exhausted all of us with COVID. But that is not our choice – our choice is to get as educated as possible on the proposed New High School so we are ready to vote in the upcoming referendum on or before January 25th – Yes or No.” – Tiffanie Fisher
“As a parent of a young child, a property owner, and someone who simply wants to see our community continue to thrive, supporting the new high school is a no-brainer. Sure, it’s a lot of money, but it’s an investment in ourselves and our kids. With this plan, we’ll get the world-class facilities our HS and MS students deserve, finally create much-needed space for our elementary students, and establish a new heart for Hoboken. Parents who previously would have opted to send their kids to private school will save $20,000/year while still sending their kids to the best HS in NJ. Property owners will see values rise. We’ll gain new spaces, theaters, and areas for our community to gather and play. The ice rink (seemingly the most controversial) will meet the needs of a fast-growing sport in town (our HS hockey team currently travels to practice), offers the greatest opportunity for revenue generation, and will provide a huge source of comic relief for anyone wishing to come watch me learn to skate. All of this is on top of 300,000 gallons of stormwater detention which will help ease local flooding. Sign me up!” – Joe Quintero.
We reached out to all council members for comment and will add any additional responses we receive.
Today, January 25th is when residents of Hoboken can vote on this issue — every vote counts, regardless of your stance!