Hudson Maxim's final days: School closes earlier than expected Teachers pack up classrooms, students dispersed among various schools

| 31 Jan 2019 | 10:33

HOPATCONG - A needed repair to a broken heating system under the gymnasium's concrete floor led to an impromptu decision to permanently close Hudson Maxim School on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, earlier than expected. The Hopatcong School District's Superintendent's Office issued a statement on Tuesday further explaining that a "hectic five days" of vapor and a too-warm gym floor could only be fixed by opening up the concrete floor, then jack hammering and re-cementing, which was just too much considering the disruption to students and all the other repairs the school building needed. In June the School Board already approved the school's closing, but the steamy, vaporous environment, and warm, buckling floor, left officials no choice but to close earlier than planned.
So on Friday, teachers were asked to pack their classrooms and students were given the day off.
The Superintendent noted that many teachers and parents assisted in what grew to be a wave of colaborative packing, moving, and then recreating classrooms in other schools over the weekend.
The contents of Hudson Maxim School classrooms were delivered to Hopatcong Middle School for Kindergarten and First Grade, and to Hopatcong High School for the Pre-School and Multiply Disabled Class. By Sunday afternoon, the Middle School parking lot was filled and teachers and volunteers off-loaded boxes and furniture to set up the new classrooms. On Sunday afternoon Superintendent Arthur D. Benedetto held a standing room only meeting about busing, start and end times, lunches, and other special arrangements. By evening, classrooms at the High School were ready but Kindergarten and First Grade teachers needed one more day. All preparation was completed by Monday evening and on Tuesday morning, students returned to class.
The district noted the list of people to thank is endless, including administrators who found classroom space, teachers and children who welcomed the new students: "Many teachers worked all weekend without pay. Parents and their children came and helped in any way possible. Custodians and maintenance personnel worked long hours tirelessly to accomplish the goal. PTO brought in food for workers. Food establishments such as The Grotto, Frank’s Pizza and Knot Just Pizza donated food for the workers and volunteers. Many of the donations were arranged by individual citizens who do not have children in the school. In summary, the goal has been accomplished and it is a feather in the cap of the town in that there were no distractions and few negative feelings towards what had to be done.”
The school may be gone, but the memories remain.
Hopatcong resident and former Hopatcong Board of Education member Rob Nicholson said the condition of Helen Maxim School was always a concern, but he never thought it would lead to closure.
“That being said, I also understand the student population decline,” he said. “I only wish that something else useful could be done with the building. I'm still not a fan of the decision to sell and raze the building, which will most likely be done in short order now. I am very interested in who will ultimately buy the building and what the final outcome will be. It has been rumored for years that the property would become part of the Riverstyx rede-velopment project, and I believe that is finally coming to light.”
About a month ago Nicholson collected 475 signatures on a petition that stated "on December 17th, with a 9-0 vote, the decision was made to close Hudson Maxim School and sell it off. While this decision is final, we believe there is still an opportunity to save this building, and turn it into both a community center and a muse-um.”
Jennifer Bellotti-Spear attended kindergarten and first grade at Hudson Maxim.
"I always remember putting on your imaginary ear phones in music and marrying my kindergarten crush on the playground," she said. "I am sad to hear of its closing...I see Hopatcong as the land of opportunity. It is rich in community and people who help each other out. I hope the closing of Hudson Maxim is just offering the dis-trict and town a new opportunity.”
Nicholson noted, "We can't stop change, but we can always look back fondly. Hudson Maxim school will for-ever hold a place in our town's history and our hearts.”