Jersey City P.S. 16 parents speak out against BOE’s plan to move CASPER program to Danforth


Jersey City parents with students enrolled at the Public School No. 16 Annex spoke out against the BOE’s plan to move the CASPER after-school program to the Danforth Avenue Early Childhood Center.

Screenshot via Facebook Live.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Silvia Meyer, who has two young children who both utilize the CASPER program, said that rushing 3- and 4-year-olds back home during the 5 to 6 p.m. rush hour was not practical.

“It can take up to one hour to cross Jersey City at that time of day, while now they are bussed back at 2 p.m. and the commute only takes 20 minutes. It will be unpredictable for both kids and parents and will inevitably negatively effect their evening routine and their stability they are so in need of at this age,” she explained.

“We are also concerned because many parents of P.S. 16 children do not own a car and won’t be able to pick up kids earlier when it’s necessary. The only way to get to this location via public transportation, which can take up to 45 minutes each way. As working parents, it just cannot work, especially when there are several kids to pick up.”

Meyer further stated the rationale for this change, that CASPER enrollment is at full capacity, isn’t believable since parents have seen less than 10 children participating in recent sessions, also referencing a letter sent to various school officials last month opposing the proposal that was yet to receive a reply.

The annex is located at 275 Washington St., while the early childhood center is at 160 Danforth Ave., a 3.9 mile commute that takes about 15 minutes by car in optimal traffic conditions.

Madeline Vichura, a Paulus Hook mother of a four-year-old son, referred to CASPER as “an essential service,” but said a 6 p.m. bus drop off is just too late for children that age.

“We’re so happy with the service that you guys offer, but you know, over 135 of us put our concerns in the letter to the district and we’ve never heard back. The annex was built for pre-K and this is a total surprise to us. I think the Bright Street plan is great, but we want to keep the status quo going until that’s ready.”

Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Norma Fernandez addressed the parents who voiced concerns on the subject after the first public portion ended.

“We will be offering CASPER at the three sites to help the students on the waiting list. Principal Watkins Williams has scheduled a meeting this week on Wednesday at 4 o’clock with the parents so they can learn more about the program and have any questions answered if necessary,” she said.

Parents of P.S. 16 students told HCV this was the first time they had heard of this meeting taking place.

Additionally, Board of Education Trustee Lorenzo Richardson weighed in on the issue during board comment.

“The travel time is long to Danforth, but typically that’s going from north to south, not so much south to north. So please don’t beat me up about that, it’s just a fact. Nor am I saying that’s okay. I just want to be clear about that,” he noted.

“Because if Vice President [Natalia] Ioffe recalls, when – I forget how many years ago,  maybe three yea possibly – when I was at your school and you were on the PTA, I was the person who suggested the old P.S. 3 back then – right there in your auditorium.  Several years later we’re still trying to figure this out.”

He also suggested that the city should have a tracker on how development and growth in different parts of the city detailing which zones they will impact.

Ioffe assured P.S. 16 parents they aren’t being ignored and repeated what Fernandez said about a principal-led meting scheduled for Wednesday.

“Parents, you aren’t being ignored, to the outcome – I cannot speak – but we’ll be able to have a discussion,” noting that she, Trustee Paula Jones-Watson, and school district employees would be in attendance as well.

Vice President Gina Verdibello recounted similar struggles when she had a child enrolled at P.S. 38, continuing that the district should make fixing this situation a priority.

Out of the 135 parents who signed the aforementioned letter, 81 percent said they wanted the CASPER program to stay at the annex.

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  1. What about the hundreds of kids who are on the waiting list? The annex Casper is full and many parents ( including yours truly) can’t have my kid in Casper due to space constraints. Is it fair for current Casper parents to not allow Casper expansion and help other parents who want to enroll their kids in Casper