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Jan 23, 2020

Special Services School, Playground to Open in Neptune

The Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ) will soon occupy a school in Neptune Township to provide specialized services for students in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

As part of the plan, beginning July 1, the Neptune Board of Education will be relocating students ages 3 and 4 to elementary schools within their home zones, allowing the youngest students to become acclimated to their local elementary schools.

The move frees up the 44,000-square-foot building comprising the Neptune Early Childhood Center, at 11 Memorial Drive, allowing ESCNJ to expand its programming for students with disabilities within Monmouth and Ocean counties. The ESCNJ has signed an initial five-year lease as part of the agreement with the school district.

“We are very pleased to partner with the Neptune Board of Education on a program that has tremendous local benefit,” said ESCNJ Schools Superintendent Mark Finkelstein. “No longer will children in Monmouth and Ocean counties need to travel far distances to receive quality, specialized education. ESCNJ offers experts in many areas of specialized education. Beginning July 1, we are pleased to offer a local, cost-effective solution.”

The 18-classroom school, each equipped with their own bathrooms, will serve up to 144 students. Students will range from pre-K to age 21. Students will have various disabilities, such as autism and/or multiple disabilities. They will receive services that best accommodate their unique learning styles.

Finkelstein noted the ESCNJ is particularly impressed with the school playground, which has been specifically designed to accommodate all children, no matter the ability level. “This school definitely meets our high standards and requirements,” he said.

Dr. Tami Crader, Superintendent of the Neptune Township schools, said the district is welcoming the partnership. Not only does the agreement allow for the young pupils to be served by their local elementary schools, it provides new revenue for the school district, which has sustained a multi-million dollar reduction in state aid.

In addition, she said, the school district can realize more savings by having students with special needs served locally by the ESCNJ, rather than enroll them in out-of-town placements that often have higher tuition and transportation costs.

The timing for this agreement is also beneficial. Crader noted enrollment numbers have been dwindling in all five elementary schools in the district.

“We look forward to having these children in their own elementary schools, where their siblings are enrolled,” the superintendent said. “We believe this is a very sensible plan that benefits everyone.”

Finkelstein said the school – which is yet unnamed – will also be an extended home of the ESCNJ’s transportation department, making coordinated services available for the 55 school districts in Monmouth County and the 19 school districts in Ocean County. ESCNJ’s main transportation hub will remain at its headquarters in Piscataway.

As ESCNJ expands its services in Monmouth and Ocean counties, additional staff will be hired for the school. ESCNJ officials are planning to meet with school officials in both counties to assess their upcoming placement needs for specialized education and detail the many services that are now being offered locally.

“We are very excited to be expanding our services in Monmouth and Ocean counties; there are many voids we hope to fill,” Finkelstein said. “We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the Neptune Board of Education. We very much appreciate this opportunity for growth.”

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