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Brick Considers Options For High School Students With Behavioral Disabilities

Brick Township Board of Education/Schools (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Brick Township Board of Education/Schools (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Brick school district is considering a number of measure to provide services for students with behavioral and psychological issues who are currently at risk of being placed in private facilities outside of the district at a significant cost to taxpayers.

Since the 2013-14 school year, the district has contracted with Effective School Solutions, a private company that has provided clinical programming for students with emotional and psychological disabilities in-district at a cost of $525,000 per school year. The program, school officials say, has worked, with its 59 participants having increased their grades by 66.7 percent, decreased their disciplinary infractions by 67.6 percent and decreased their absences by 48.3 percent.

The issue with which school officials are wrestling is the fact that so many more students could benefit from such a program. David Nyman, one of the founders of Effective School Solutions (ESS), said at a Board of Education meeting last week that the company and its staff members have identified numerous other students in need of special services and at least 11 students that are currently at risk of requiring placement outside of the district in a private institution, which comes at a significant cost to taxpayers.

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ESS currently provides what is known as a “wrap-around” program for 36 students in both Brick Township High School and Brick Memorial High School. The program includes a therapeutic environment that incorporates family services, school avoidance intervention, plus supervision and training for district employees. Its other programs include supportive measures for families outside of the wrap-around program itself.

“We provide an intensive clinical program for these students,” Nyman said. The numbers “tell you the impact that the programs are having on the students. They perform much better academically, they behave much better and they stay in school.”

Nyman said the Brick district – one of the state’s largest suburban school systems – could benefit from an alternative school for students in need of psychological services. Such a school would likely be housed in one of the township’s two high schools, effectively a “school within a school” that would provide an intensive program for students.

Superintendent Dr. Walter Uszenski said that officials are currently examining the availability of space and the cost factor for starting such a program within the district.

“Right now, there seems to be a need,” Uszenski said. ” Once we have all that information, with the Director of Special Services we’ll make a presentation to the board.”

Nyman said an alternative school would be created in self-contained classrooms. The Freehold Regional school district, he said, recently implemented such a program.

Uszenski said Brick officials have been in contact with their counterparts in Freehold to obtain more knowledge on the program as it is hosted there.