I write to you as your Mayor, but also as a proud graduate of public schools. When my parents came to this country, they started their journey here in a trailer park. Private school was not an option, so my brother and I went to our town’s public school. Those public schools shaped me into who I am today, and helped my whole town be a better place to live for all. Simply put, strong communities and strong public schools go hand in hand.
Many residents have asked my position on the upcoming January 25th referendum put forward by the Hoboken Board of Education (BOE) to build a new Hoboken High School. I’m glad to share that I will be enthusiastically voting “YES” on the BOE’s proposal, as I know this investment will serve all of Hoboken for generations to come. This is a historic, once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring our high school facility to the 21st Century. With a YES vote, we have the ability to take public education in Hoboken to a bright future. This is a world-class city, the time is now for it to have world-class high school facilities.
Here are a few important reasons why I’m voting YES on January 25th:
No Room for Delay: In truth, because residents want to set down roots here, our elementary schools are over capacity and the middle school is bursting. It has been over 60 years since Hoboken made a major investment in the infrastructure of our high school. Whether it’s now or later, we have no choice but to increase our facility capacity. But if we wait, it will only cost us more, not less.
Let’s Not Leave State Support at the Table : This is not just about a high school – the construction of a modern high school will allow for the middle school to relocate to the current high school, so that the BOE can move forward with a $30M renovation to the 100 year old Demarest building, funded in full by the State of New Jersey. Demarest will then become the fourth neighborhood elementary school to meet the increasing demand of families raising their children in Hoboken.
Increased property values: I have no doubt that a new modern high school will translate over time to an increase in property values, providing a tangible benefit to all property owners, not just those with children. This is not complex: with a top-notch high school, families will think twice before leaving Hoboken because of the schools, or send their children to private schools. This will in turn substantially increase the property values of all residents.
Community benefits: The features included in the proposed high school would expand recreational opportunities for all residents. Many residents must leave Hoboken to participate in activities such as swim teams, ice skating, and hockey. We know that HHS, HMS, and Stevens University travel out of town for ice time for hockey teams. Based on research done by the BOE, the recreational features of this modern high school will likely generate sufficient revenue to be self-sustaining.
Continues to build on a rigorous curriculum to meet diverse needs: The Hoboken High School graduation rate is nearly 99 percent, with 23 Advanced Placement (AP) courses offered and over $17M in academic scholarships awarded to the class of 2021. The proposed high school would include additional classroom space and laboratories to support an additional six embedded vocational programs to meet the needs of all students, college-bound or not.
I believe that a yes vote, as opposed to going back to the drawing board and delaying a new facility for potentially several years, is the best path forward for Hoboken, especially because I am convinced that costs will inevitably rise with delay. As we enter Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I think of Dr. King’s remarks about “the fierce urgency of now” – this is one of those times for Hoboken, where we must act now to elevate the quality of education for our children.
I recognize that like many proposals, no plan is perfect, and there are a number of legitimate questions and concerns that residents have raised as they learn more about the BOE’s proposal. As a community, we’re able to have respectful differences of opinion, and not everyone will ultimately vote the same way – just like every election in Hoboken. But, I am hopeful that we can all respect each other and remember that the BOE’s interest is putting our children’s educational needs first and building a better education system for all of us.
For those who are looking for more information and FAQ’s about the BOE’s referendum, please click here. Please note that since this is not a referendum put forward by the City of Hoboken (the City and BoE are two separate entities with separate budgets, governed by a separate body of elected officials), you can reach out to the BOE directly with questions about the referendum at: proposednewhhs@hoboken.
I hope the above has been helpful as you consider your vote on the January 25th referendum. Like other election days, polls will be open from 6am and 8pm at your typical polling site or you may request a Vote By Mail ballot from the Hudson County Board of Election by mailing this form, which must be received by January 18th.
Ravi S. Bhalla