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'Trust Was Broken': Maywood School Officials Disappointed With Hackensack's $165M Referendum

More than half of the funds for the new referendum ($97.8 million) would go toward building the 195,000-square-foot school next to Hackensack High School.
More than half of the funds for the new referendum ($97.8 million) would go toward building the 195,000-square-foot school next to Hackensack High School. Photo Credit: Hackensack BOE

Maywood school officials and community members are less than pleased with Hackensack's $165 million referendum plan presented earlier this week at a budget meeting.

A sender/receiver contract that sent approximately 250 students from the Maywood Avenue School to Hackensack High School expired in June 2017. In January, Maywood officials rejected a new contract that would allow them to continue sending ninth graders to HHS, along with those from Rochelle Park and South Hackensack.

In June, Maywood school officials were informed of change to add a new school for seventh through ninth graders.

"The BOE and district [are] not in favor of the configuration for social, academic and grade progression reasons," Maywood Schools Superintendent Michael Jordan said.

"The problem all along has been finances and tuition rate. This may exacerbate the problem in years to come as tuition rates may increase."

More than half of the funds for the new referendum ($97.8 million) would go toward building the 195,000-square-foot school next to Hackensack High School.

It has a projected enrollment rate of 1,477 students. It would also include a three-station gymnasium, 750-seat auditorium, media center, 200-space parking garage, classrooms, a STEAM room and science labs.

Jordan also expressed disappointed that Hackensack did not include Maywood school officials in the discussion.

"Hackensack indicated that multiple meetings, forums, surveys and other forms of feedback took place. Maywood was never informed," Jordan said.

"Hackensack indicated the info was on their website and that current high school parents received a mailing. The audience who should have been targeted are current K to 8 parents as it is their kids who will be impacted when construction is complete."

While the district as a whole negotiated a contract under the premise that the high school would always a 9-to-12 school, Jordan opined that parent community was not involved in any of the surveys, forums and other feedback options.

Acting Hackensack Superintendent Rosemary Marks stressed that there was never any point in time where Maywood was not meant to be part of the conversations. She added that Maywood was invited to join the advisory committee -- and hopes that Jordan will.

"These conversations have been ongoing for five years," Marks said.

"We recognized we would need additional space.. and we have been sharing during public meetings with Maywood representatives present.. and on our website since October.

"The purpose of the meeting Wednesday was the share the plan, which is just coming into place," Marks said. "It seems there were several assumptions made that we had an ongoing plan."

"One assumption Mr. Jordan made was that we had a 7,8,9 building all along."

Marks maintained that the idea for a seventh through ninth grade building only came into play after several meetings, surveys and focus groups with stake holders of every level -- parents, custodians, teachers, and more. Those meetings pointed to the need for early childhood classes.

"That was a real priority for our community," Marks said. "We started looking at 7,8,9 options more seriously only int he spring and narrowed on that in May. We have been working with architects feverishly since June and throughout this month to really get a plan in place to submit to the NJDOE."

Although Hackensack can ultimately choose whichever direction they want as a district, Jordan feels that communication between the districts is not where it should be.

"As a valued partner in the high school, Maywood feels that an opportunity was lost to build trust and welcome parents into the discussion of a major project that will impact Maywood students," he said.

"The lack of inclusiveness is a part of the overall existing problems and we hope that improves for the betterment of all parties involved."

Marks said the intention is to work together with Maywood for the benefit of the children.

"We value Maywood as a partner," she said. "We will continue to make every good faith effort in keeping the communication lines open and opening them at higher levels. I hope that Mr. Jordan is amenable to those lines of communication."

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