HoLa Charter School Announces Weighted Lottery to Benefit Low-Income Students

First Independent Charter School in NJ to Offer Lottery Preference for Low-Income Families 

HOBOKEN, NJ (Dec. 16, 2015)—The Hoboken Dual Language Charter School (HoLa) announced today that low-income students will receive an extra chance in HoLa’s lottery on January 15, 2016.

“After three years of trying to get approval by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJ DOE), we are delighted to be able to finally offer low-income families in Hoboken an additional opportunity to attend our school,” said Jennifer Sargent, Founder and Executive Director of HoLa. The NJ DOE approved HoLa’s low-income lottery preference request this month.

Already boasting a beautifully diverse student demographic that mirrors the city of Hoboken, HoLa wants to ensure that ALL families in Hoboken have access to its very successful dual language educational model. While HoLa’s low-income demographic has been steadily increasing since it first opened in 2010, the announcement of the low income preference gives families who may not have otherwise heard about HoLa an opportunity to learn more about our school and enter the lottery. “Every December and January when we go knocking on doors to tell families about our upcoming lottery, we still meet Hoboken residents who have never heard of HoLa and don’t know that it’s an option,” said Barbara Martinez, president of HoLa’s board and a co-founder. “We are hoping that our new preference will help raise awareness among families that might not know about all of their options, and then give them an increased chance in the lottery once they apply.”

“Opportunity should be blind to income,” said Assemblyman Raj Mukherji. “That’s why I’m proud that the HoLa school and the Department of Education could overcome bureaucratic hurdles to ensure that underprivileged students in my district will have a lottery preference and broaden their access to additional public education options.”

Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia said: “Given the realities in Hoboken today, the HoLa lottery system is a landmark initiative that will provide for a smart balance in giving low-income students a chance for educational success. HoLa has always been driven by its dedication to serving its students—from whatever socio-economic class they come—but at times they have been road-blocked by politics. It is a great day for Hoboken students that this fine charter school will now be able to use the weighted lottery system, allowed by the state Department of Education. When our students succeed, Hoboken thrives.”

 “I’m proud of the work that our charters are doing to bring choice to Hoboken families,” said Mayor Dawn Zimmer. “I congratulate HoLa on this historic step to make sure all families in Hoboken are aware of their school choices.”

HoLa is proud to be working with the Hoboken Housing Authority to ensure that Hoboken residents with school age children are aware of the upcoming lottery.

“All Hoboken families deserve to have equal options for schools, so we are glad that the Hoboken Dual Language Charter School has decided to focus on ensuring that low-income families are aware of the wonderful choices of public schools there are in Hoboken,” said Marc Recko, Executive Director of the Hoboken Housing Authority. “We are looking forward to partnering with HoLa to ensure our families know about this new opportunity.”

Any child who can provide proof of ONE of the following would get his or her name placed into the lottery twice, rather than once:

  • Lives in Hoboken public housing;
  • Lives in Hoboken Section 8 housing;
  • Child or guardian qualifies for SNAP/TANF benefits, or
  • Child already qualifies for free or reduced price lunch in his/her current public school

“I enthusiastically commend HoLa for creating new opportunities for families in Hoboken,” said Ora Welch, President and CEO of HOPES CAP Inc., a nonprofit community action agency whose mission is to combat poverty in Hudson County by providing a variety of social services for the community. “HoLa is showing that a public school can go above and beyond and do more to serve all families in Hoboken. They are a true partner in our work of improving young people’s lives,” she said. HOPES is committed to its mission of providing programs that respond to the social, educational, and training needs of low-income individuals.

 “The lottery preference has been a long time coming,” said Ms. Sargent. HoLa was originally conceived in 2008 by the founders not as a charter school but as a program within Connors Elementary School, the district school in Hoboken with the largest concentration of low-income students by far.  It was only after the district option was approved and then subsequently reversed by the Hoboken school board that the founders applied to become a charter school and received approval from the state in 2009. The school opened with grades K-2 in 2010 and has grown by one grade a year since then.

“Implementing a weighted admissions formula is a promising step toward making one of Hoboken’s public charter schools more accessible to a socioeconomically diverse student population, which will benefit the entire school and community,” said Dr. Molly Makris, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at Guttman Community College, CUNY, who studied Hoboken school demographics for her book, Public Housing and School Choice in a Gentrified City: Youth Experiences of Uneven Opportunity. “Used in conjunction with other inclusive strategies, this policy has the potential to serve as a model for other public schools.”


HoLa is a K-8 dual language immersion charter school with over 300 students. Students predominantly join us in Kindergarten and, regardless of language background, spend 90% of their day in Spanish-speaking classrooms in the early grades. Students gradually receive increasing amounts of instruction in English as they get older, and by 4th grade, instruction is 50% Spanish and 50% English.  

Kindergarten is the typical entry point for HoLa, although HoLa accepts students in every grade where there is an opening. Currently, Hoboken residents and siblings of existing students get a preference to attend HoLa, and that will not change. Every year, HoLa has 44 spots available in Kindergarten and some portion of these spots are reserved for siblings, which leaves the remaining spots open for over 250 applicants.

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