By Ron Leir
EAST NEWARK –
As summer’s clock winds down to the start of classes for the fall term, East Newark Public School is making all kinds of preparations to welcome students and staff back in style.
Newly installed Superintendent/ Principal Patrick Martin recently ticked off a list of improvements that staff and borough workers have done to enliven the century-plus-old building.
“We’ve undergone a huge facelift,” said Martin. Among the improvements he listed were these:
* All classrooms have gotten new window shades. “Many didn’t have any to begin with,” he said.
* The school’s early childhood center, located in the borough rec center, had a new air-conditioning system and a new refrigerator installed.
* A borough maintenance crew was doing some repairs in the school’s boys’ bathroom and came across original floor tiles, Martin said, so that flooring has been restored.
* The school’s kindergarten classroom – whose wall coloring probably has remained untouched for many years – is being painted, along with a staff conference room.
* An ancient cloakroom that had been used for storage for years has been emptied and cleaned, to be converted to a small group instruction area. With all other available rooms occupied, this was seen as the best alternative for the use of this space, Martin said.
* Ninety laptops and mobile carts priced at $120,000 that were ordered months ago – but whose delivery was delayed – have finally arrived.
“These are very important,” Martin said, “because our students will be using them this school year for the new state-mandated PARCC [Partnership for Readiness of Assessment for College & Careers] testing.”
When teachers report on Sept. 2, they’ll have two days of in-service technical training so they will also get oriented to the use of the new computer equipment, Martin said.
The first round of PARCC testing is scheduled in March 2015 and the second round in May. But, to help students acclimate to the computers and to use another measurement to see whether they are achieving state benchmarks, the school will administer an in-house practice run of a PARCC-like test in November 2014 and February 2015.
If there are marked differences between scoring results on the practice tests and the PARCC tests, Martin said school staff will have some basis for making an independent assessment of the results.
Students return for a halfsession of classes on Sept. 4 and, the next day, the fall semester swings into full session for everyone.
But before everyone gets down to the business of education, the school is throwing a welcome-back party for its 200-plus youngsters. “We’re calling it an ‘ice-cream social, ’’ Martin said. “We’ll close off N. Third St., between Davis and Central Aves., to traffic and give the students a chance to enjoy ice cream and music to kick the school year off on the right foot.”
On July 23, the East Newark Board of Education authorized a field trip for 60 students and 15 staffers to the Central Park Zoo in New York as the culminating activity for the school’s summer school program. For many of the kids, it marked the first time they’d traveled across the Hudson River, according to Martin.
For many, it was also their first exposure to a llama, goats, sheep and other animals which they were allowed to feed and pet.
Their journey to Manhattan also took them down Fifth Avenue for an up-close look at landmarks like Tiffany’s, Rockefeller Center, the New York Public Library’s main branch and Empire State Building, all of which they’d researched before the trip.
Martin said the school is hoping to expand its offering of field trips during the school year as a way of widening children’s awareness of the world outside East Newark.
As morale boosters, Martin has welcomed public displays of student art work along interior school stairwell walls and has, himself, taken a hand in not only brightening school décor but also adding to students’ cultural appreciation, by posting photos and capsule biographies of such artists as Billie Holiday and Renoir.
And he’s experimenting with subtle ways of prompting youngsters to begin thinking about future careers by hanging in hallways, at kids’ height, small mirrors with printed tags below, reading, for example, “Possible future Attorney.”