Middle School opens


Most of Kearny’s public school seventh- and eighthgraders showed up for the first day (actually, it was a half day) of classes at the newly designated Lincoln Middle School last Thursday.

And four brand new classrooms – created this summer following the Board of Education’s administrative staff moving to their new quarters on Midland Ave. – opened at the Franklin Elementary School campus, housing two pre-Ks (morning and afternoon sessions), a bilingual first grade and a sixth-grade science/math.

Franklin Principal Yvonne Cali said the town Building Department granted a temporary certificate of occupancy, pending adjustment of the height of toilets for the younger children.

Lincoln Middle School’s administrators, Principal Robert Zika and Vice Principal Patrick Ragnoni, said their first day went fairly smoothly, made a bit easier, they noted, by the fact that about 550 of the school’s 850 students had arrived the day before to pick up classroom schedules.

They said that most of their peers got their schedules on Thursday and if any problems popped up, school guidance counselors jumped in to remedy any confusion within minutes.

They estimated overall attendance on Thursday at “about 90%” but anticipated that figure would be adjusted upwards within the next few days as parents and/or guardians took care of any last-minute residency issues while other families returned from extended Labor Day vacations.

Teachers and non-instructional staff assigned to the middle school showed up as expected, they said.

Acting Superintendent of Schools Patricia Blood, making the rounds of schools in the district, stopped at Lincoln to extend greetings. At a well-attended public forum in mid-June, Blood had assured parents that Lincoln would be ready to receive students by the opening of the fall term.

Still, one nagging question raised by several parents couldn’t be satisfactorily answered, at least from some parents’ perspective – busing of kids to and from school – a practice the Kearny Board of Education has not adopted a school district is only obliged to provide school transportation if the distance between any elementary school and residence exceeds two miles, and that’s simply not the case, Blood said.

But, inspired by Elva Tineo and Oscar Riva, whose two daughters attend Lincoln, 15 parents of children who had to transfer from Washington Elementary School near the Harrison border to Lincoln have petitioned the Kearny BOE and superintendent to reconsider.

The petition reads: “We parents are worried about the distance between our houses to Lincoln School. The students used to go to Washington School which was in the neighborhood but with the new restructuring, Lincoln School is too far from our homes.

“The distance from our houses to Lincoln School is 1.8 miles and it will take 42 minutes in a good weather condition just to walk to the school. We do not have a budget for a $56 monthly bus fare for each kid just to get to school.

“Please consider the dangers and safety of our kids walking for almost an hour to school. How is a parent supposed to feel safe and comfortable, when our kids can encounter anything or anyone, i.e., sex offenders, heat exhaustion, irresponsible drivers … and so much more.”

Tineo said the parents would be happy with a shuttle bus that ran along Kearny Ave., the main north-south artery in town, to transport the children.

Asked if the town could take on such an enterprise, Mayor Alberto Santos told The Observer, “Transportation of school children is a school function. We can’t assume that responsibility unless there’s a compelling need.”

But even assuming deployment of a Kearny Ave. shuttle, Santos said, “you’re going to need multiple buses and drivers and that’s a significant cost.” And, Santos said, it could open a Pandora’s box because, “Once you do it for one group of children, you’ve got to do it for all.”

Asked if the Police Department would be adding or reconfiguring existing school crossing guards to adjust to the redistricting, Santos said: “We asked the district to supply us with information on that but we never got the data from them on whether student commuting patterns would change. However, the police are monitoring the situation.”

– Ron Leir 

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