In February of last year, our community voted on and approved a two-phase capital improvement project totaling $19.9 million. Since then, we have been hard at work holding meetings with staff and the public, drafting designs and filing paperwork with the New York State Education Department.

We are pleased to report that Phase I of the project is well under way. The first step in the Capital Project was to move Grade 6 from M.C. Smith Intermediate School (MCSIS) into the Junior High School (JHS), which we completed prior to the start of the 2016-17 school year. Sixth grade students and teachers have adapted well to the new routines of departmentalized subject areas and transitions between classes. Although Grade 6 classrooms and lunch periods are separate from Grades 7 and 8, students in all three grades gather in the library or play sports together in the gym before school starts. We are happy to see how quickly Grade 6 has been welcomed to the JHS community.

Other components of Phase I that are moving forward are plans for the new track/athletic field facility, under roof improvements, traffic flow upgrades and renovations at MCSIS in preparation for the Grade 2 move this September. We are happy to report that Phase I is on schedule and running at or below budget.

As we prepare for the Grade 2 transition, scheduled for September 2017, there are several points of consideration to ensure a smooth process. We have spoken with administrators and staff extensively so that we are better able to address aspects of staffing, planning, safety and the logistics of moving an entire grade to another building.

Staffing considerations for the Grade 2 transition are an important piece in this phase of the project. Teachers who will have second grade classes in the 2017-18 school year will be identified this month and will work with administration to prepare for the move. The amount and types of support staff (e.g., classroom aides, reading specialists, speech therapists, counselors, etc.) will remain the same. Teachers of special subjects (such as art, library, physical education and music) will be shared between buildings so that incoming second grade students will not miss out on anything. Our goal is to provide the same resources to Grade 2 staff and students that were available to them at John L. Edwards Primary School (JLE).

We also want to maintain consistency in daily routines for the younger students transitioning to MCSIS this fall. Grades 2-5 will have separate lunch/recess periods with their respective grade level. Additionally, MCSIS principal, Mark Brenneman, will observe the routines and procedures that currently work at JLE (e.g., arrival/dismissal) so he can work with the JLE teachers and staff to develop a plan for the continued safety of our students. The safety and security of our students is a top priority, and this will not change as we move toward a two-campus district.

In an effort to keep the transportation element of the grade reconfiguration as stress-free as possible for our students, the majority of changes to bus routes and procedures will take effect in the 2017-18 school year to best prepare for the eventual move of Grades PK-1 (rather than initiating core transportation changes twice). Therefore, we are working with the Transportation Department to discuss existing district-wide transportation procedures and the need for changes/improvements (such as additional bus runs, logistical and crowding issues or minor adjustments to arrival/dismissal times). While we will continue to run bus routes with mixed ages, as they currently operate, we will be closely examining each one individually and making improvements as needed. More information will be forthcoming as it becomes available.

We are on schedule to complete the newly renovated rooms for Grade 2 by the end of this school year and we will schedule a tour of these rooms sometime in late spring. Additionally, Mr. Brenneman is working on a plan for a student and parent/guardian orientation as he and MCSIS staff prepare to welcome Grade 2 to the building. MCSIS staff and members of the current second grade team are excited to begin the journey of forming one culture of learning that puts the children of Hudson first. We are certain the feeling will be similar when PK-1 students and remaining JLE staff get ready to join the MCSIS community next fall.

The Grade 2 transition is our primary focus of attention at the moment, but we also have an eye on the transition of PK-1 in September 2018. Parents/guardians of current JLE students will have an opportunity to speak directly with district staff about the upcoming transitions at the JLE parent/teacher conference night on Thursday, March 30, 2017 starting at 6 p.m. We will be available in the JLE cafetorium during this time and welcome the opportunity to discuss the project and answer any questions that families have.

It is an exciting time in the Hudson City School District as we begin to merge two buildings to make one community. There are many components to a successful transition and we are thankful to all who have been involved in this process as the district continues to work toward enhancing the educational experience of all our students.