Sending Guttenberg 7th and 8th graders to North Bergen could cost $2.4M

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After Guttenberg parents and teachers questioned the board of education about potentially sending their 7th and 8th graders to North Bergen for the second meeting in a row, officials said the move could cost the district an additional $2.4 million.

During the public portion of the meeting, Sari Zukerman, a former board member, said that research shows children typically perform better in a K-8 environment than they do when transferred to a middle school.

Another speaker, Guttenberg parent Gladys Villegas-Ocampo, said there should be no obligation for residents to send 7th and 8th grade students to North Bergen.

“I personally don’t like North Bergen, I like my town. I don’t feel that North Bergen High School, let’s say, my kids haven’t been going to that grade yet, but I just think if we’re staying here in this town, why should we be obligated to send our kids, 7th and 8th graders, to a town that we don’t like,” she said.

Villegas-Ocampo also questioned how much of a role parents and other members of the community actually had in the process if the decision will ultimately come down to a vote by the board.

Responding to another parent’s concerns, Guttenberg BOE Counsel John Schettino said that the board would consider the educational and economic benefits before making a decision.

“That’s the question: is there going to be an educational benefit. As the board president stated, they [the committee] haven’t had any meetings yet, it’s going to have to be demonstrated what those educational benefits would be,” he explained.

“You heard Ms. Zukerman, who was on the board a long time, and I think she’s correct, there are studies out there that talk about middle schools and some issues with middle schools, so all those factors are going to have to be considered.”

During questioning from another parent, Johnny Restrepo, former board president Rebecca Vazquez said that an October press conference where North Bergen officials announced that High Tech would be the new township high school was the first they heard that the old high school would be used for 7th and 8th graders.

“The mayor [Gerald Drasheff] right away called me and he said ‘Did you hear? Did anyone call you or contact you and discuss this with you?’ I said ‘this comes as a total shock to me,’” she recalled.

“And so I said, at that point I said I will talk to the superintendent, the business administrator just to find out if they had gotten any calls from anybody at North Bergen. And the answer was no.”

Superintendent of Schools Michelle Rosenberg, who met with North Bergen officials shortly after the press conference, added that that the estimated increased costs would be about $2.4 million.