BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Effective School Solutions, a program that aims to keep troubled students in their home school district, has been appointed by the Board of Education to begin working with students at Ridge High School next fall.

ESS, which already operates in 58 schools in New Jersey and Connecticut, has a proven record of cutting absences in half, increasing grades, and keeping the vast majority of students worked with from requiring outside placements in special programs, ESS Chief Executive Officer David Nyman told the Board of Education on Monday night. 

ESS has been commissioned on a year-long trial basis, and will be paid $275,000, said Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian.

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The program will assign two full-time mental health professionals at Ridge to provide intensive therapy for about 18 students and their families when school starts in September, said Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian.

Although the ESS staff members will spend much time with those students - who might otherwise end up in out-of-district placements at high costs to the school district - Markarian said he anticipates the mental health professionals that will be assigned to the high school would be available if there was a crisis mental health situation involving another student not signed up for the program.

Markarian said that bringing ESS into the high school is part of the school district's response to suicides and another tragic death among teens in the school system in the past year or so.

The program could potentially be expanded in the future to the William Annin Middle School, Markarian said following Monday's board meeting.

One of the schools where ESS is already based is Vernon High School in Sussex County, at which incoming Ridge principal Drew Krause was principal through this school year.