Elmwood Park Board Dicusses Pre-K Construction Project and SAT Prep

In a recent meeting of the Elmwood Park School Board, a variety of educational issues were brought to light, with topics ranging from a significant $15 million Pre-K construction project to the introduction of an SAT prep program. Among these, the board and the community showed particular concern for the struggles faced by a local non-profit sports organization, Elmwood Park Bombers, due to new custodial charges and the challenges in student transportation.

The meeting kicked off with reports on assessments from the 22-23 school year, which revealed a mix of achievements and areas needing improvement across various grades and subjects. The progress, though gradual, was acknowledged, and the board expressed its commitment to enhancing student outcomes. Elmwood Park Memorial senior high school received notable mention for being selected for the prestigious Hamilton education program by the Gilder Lehrman Institute.

A significant discussion point was the $15 million multi-year Pre-K initiative set to complete by August 2025, aiming to accommodate around 236 kids born within the district. The initiative reflects the board’s focus on early intervention to enhance educational experiences and improve test scores. The board also discussed updates on renovations and the introduction of new instructional tools, emphasizing community and parental involvement through various initiatives.

Concerns raised by the Elmwood Park Bombers that drew considerable attention. The organization voiced challenges due to a new $50 per hour custodian charge, which they hadn’t incurred in their 50 years of existence. The representative for the Bombers detailed their struggles with the charge, emphasizing the long hours the trustees work. A board member responded, assuring the Bombers that they’d look into the concerns and requesting some time to delve deeper into the policy and talk to the board and committees.

Another topic raised by attendees was the lack of bus transportation and the calculated radius deemed too far for students to walk home. The conversation indicated a need for adjustments to state codes governing transportation, sparking debates about funding and taxation. The board clarified that any changes would require altering state code and reassured attendees of their commitment to addressing the concerns raised.

Attendees also expressed concern over classroom conditions, recalling instances where students had to endure hot classrooms without air conditioning. The superintendent responded, recounting a shift to half-days during extreme heat before air conditioning installations.

The potential introduction of an SAT prep program was proposed by a board member, following the observation of lower-than-desired scores and upcoming changes in SAT format. The board seemed receptive to the idea, with indications that they had considered similar programs pre-COVID.

Financial aspects of the school district were extensively discussed, with a board member highlighting the progress made since facing financial difficulties. The board expressed pride in achieving audit reports with no findings and infrastructural improvements made through careful financial management.

Concerns were raised about the quality and availability of student transportation, with one parent pointing out a case of misspelling of her daughter’s name, raising larger issues about record-keeping accuracy. The members deliberated on past transportation issues and hoped for improved state involvement and solutions.

The board also discussed upcoming projects in 2024, focusing on addressing space issues in elementary schools, and stressed the importance of additional training for the board. Finally, there were calls for continued community support for both academic and extracurricular activities, illustrating a unified desire to foster a supportive environment for the students.

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