Press Releases

The ESCNJ Announces Expansion Of Independent Living Program For Special Needs Students

Boxes folded and delivered to Zia Lisa pizzeria. The ESCNJ is expanding its Community-based Instruction program to help more higher functioning classified students prepare for independent living. Credits: Photo Courtesy of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey

Construction of a 50,000 square foot addition to help greater numbers of higher functioning classified students transition to independent living was approved April 28 by the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ) Board of Directors.

The addition will connect to the NuView Academy Annex on the ESCNJ’s Piscataway Campus. The project is expected to be operational for the September 2019-2020 school year, at a cost not to exceed $20 million.

“For several years, primarily through our Community-based Instruction program, we have helped many students acquire the functional living skills necessary for living and working independently,” said ESCNJ Superintendent Mark J. Finkelstein.

Sign Up for E-News

“However, with the trend continuing to move from large group homes in favor of smaller living environments for this population, it has become clear that the future of special education rests in the ability of organizations like ours to expand our capacity to help more students solidify their independent living skills. Our Board recognized the importance of this initiative, and fully embraced the expansion plan,” Mr. Finkelstein added.

 According to ESCNJ Business Administrator Patrick M. Moran, the ESCNJ facilities are currently filled to 90 percent capacity.

“It is important to begin the expansion project now to accommodate the enrollment increases we anticipate by 2019,” Mr. Moran said.

The new addition will also include a culinary kitchen, horticultural opportunities, a gymnasium and fitness area, and 12 classrooms equipped for comprehensive science and math projects.

A contemporary conference center with advanced technology, and a 300 seat capacity training space, is also part of the expansion.  The conference center will be available for community use, and allow the ESCNJ to host comprehensive educational programs, and attract notable speakers.

“We are starting excavation work immediately, and beginning construction in September, giving us a few months to work before the winter arrives,” said Mr. Moran.

The ESCNJ Board of Directors also approved a Supervisor of Community-

based Instruction position at its recent meeting to manage the expanded program.

 “In the past, schools have operated CBI programs independently,” said Mr. Finkelstein.

“We are now at the stage where we need to standardize the program at each school, and that requires a CBI Supervisor,” Mr. Finkelstein added.

Community-based Instruction is a research based approach to teaching independent living skills and behavior management techniques, primarily geared towards higher functioning classified students, said Assistant Superintendent for Learning/Educational Services Gary Molenaar.   Also offered as a shared time program to districts throughout New Jersey, CBI offerings include:

  •   Pre-vocational workshops - students learn resume writing and job interviewing techniques, and receive training in a simulated work environment in tasks like bagging groceries, folding laundry or sorting materials.
  • Community Education - students learn a range of behavior management techniques to facilitate appropriate behavior in public settings like restaurants, movie theaters or museums; acquire skills to access public transportation, and buy items in places like department and grocery stores.
  • Job Sampling – students learn to adapt to a workplace environment, and identify skills and interests for future employment.

 “Our CBI program is already an extremely successful initiative that continues growing dramatically,” said Mr. Molenaar,  pointing out that ESCNJ schools have established job sampling relationships with over 75 community employers including: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital; Rutgers Athletic Center & Stadium; Marshall’s; TJ Maxx; ShopRite; PetSmart; Burger King; Villagers Theater; TD Bank; Avis and Rainbow Dry Cleaners; Jenkinson’s Aquarium; Sam’s Club; Elijah’s Promise; the Francis E. Parker Memorial Home; the U.S. Postal Service; Franklin Township Food Bank; 99 Cent Depot; Liberty Science Center, Walgreens and others.

The ESCNJ recently announced another independent living initiative called Pathways to Adult Living (PAL), which starts in September 2017.

 “The program is meant to fill the void many 18-21 year-old classified students experience when they complete their high school academic requirements, yet must remain in high school for three more years, while their peers graduate and move on to college or work,” Mr. Molenaar said.

Under the guidance of certified Structured Learning Experience (SLE) faculty, staff, and job coaches, PAL students will begin each day at a newly built storefront on Main Street in downtown Sayreville. Students will spend considerable time reinforcing their independent living skills by participating in the maintenance of the storefront, in addition to cleaning, changing bed sheets and preparing meals.  Safe use of equipment like washing machines, dryers, vacuum cleaners, and microwave ovens will be enhanced, and the program will include a job sampling component in partnership with Sayreville community employers. Time will also be allotted to technology infused functional academic work.

The ESCNJ operates six schools with services for students ages 3-21 with autism, multiple disabilities, and at-risk behaviors, in addition to providing shared services to special education students statewide. The largest Educational Services Commission in New Jersey, the ESCNJ coordinates transportation services for nearly 14,000 students across the state, and manages a 1,100 member Co-op Pricing System, the largest cooperative buying program in New Jersey.         


TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

East Brunswick

East Brunswick's Girl Scouts Work with a Young Woman's Busy Schedule

March 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Have you wanted to join a Girl Scout troop, but just don't have the time? Check out this out. Busy teens can be Independent Girl Scouts -- all the programs and awards without the scheduled troop meetings. Teen girls can do badge work, attend events, travel, earn awards or do community service on their own time. (And ...

Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission Looks to Connect Families to Resources

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have ...

12th Annual Interfaith Conference – Women in Islam on March 25

March 23, 2018

 MONROE, NJ -  Muslims for Peace, Inc. proudly announces the presentation of the 12th Annual Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Interfaith Conference – Women in Islam: A Dialogue.

The Conference will be held on Sunday, March 25, 2018 at Rutgers’ Cook Campus Student Center, 54 Biel Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901. This year’s Conference will be hosted by Anisa Diab and ...

Upcoming Events

Fri, March 23, 8:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey , New Brunswick

Motown the Musical

Arts & Entertainment

Sat, March 24, 8:30 AM

East Brunswick

Spinathon 2018


Sat, April 7, 2:00 PM

State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

Arts & Entertainment

EBPL Book and Media Sale April 9-14

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—The East Brunswick Friends of Library hos their 44th annual Book and Media Sale in the Centre Court of Brunswick Square Mall (755 State Route 18, East Brunswick) this April 9-15.

The sale runs through the mall's normal hours of operations. Monday, April 9 through Saturday, April 14 (from 10 am to 9:30 pm) and Sunday, April 15 (11 ...

EBPL: Addressing Sexual Violence through Education & Empowerment

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) hosts a special two-part program “Addressing Sexual Violence through Education & Empowerment” on Wednesday, April 4 from 7 to 9 pm.

The first part of the program is the presentation ”Sexual Violence” with Jennifer Kurdyla, MSW, of Middlesex County Office of Health Services and ...

East Brunswick Public Library Hosts “The Jews of Tsarist Russia and Bessarabia Before the Holocaust” Program

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) presents the fifth installment in the series “The Jews of Eastern Europe Before The Holocaust” on April 8 at 2:30 pm.

“The intent of the series is to bring to light the legacy of my Jewish ancestors, prior to their annihilation during the Shoah,” said Dr. Michael G. Kesler, ...

Need a Passport? Save Money by Getting It Before April 2

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ—If you are planning to get a new United States passport, you can save $10 by submitting your application at the East Brunswick Public Library (2 Jean Walling Civic Center) before Monday, April 2.

The cost of a passport’s execution fee is rising from $25 to $35. The fee increase is mandated by the Department of State for any passport application submitted to ...

Queen Mary and the Cruiser

Queen Mary and the Cruiser by David A. Thomas and Patrick Holmes (Naval Institute Press, 1997)

“Had the forenoon watch and after eating went out onto the fo'c'sle. Just arrived at the top of the ladder by the PO's heads when the wave hit me---waist high---and knocked me over. Looking astern---through the bulkhead door which was open, saw the stern of a ship sticking up out of ...

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (Random House, 1965)


In Cold Blood is, quite simply, the grand-daddy of true crime writing, dubbed by Capote, himself, as the first non-fiction novel (although Norman Mailer argued the point when he published The Executioner's Song in 1979.) The conditions under which I read In Cold Blood for the first time were pretty weird, which was another ...

'Trying' explores age, youth and points of history in poignant production

‘Trying’ explores youth, age and points of history in poignant production

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – The George Street Playhouse presents an engrossing, two-character play based on the real life of Francis Biddle, former Attorney General.

Biddle, a Harvard educated lawyer, served under Franklin Roosevelt and later Harry Truman during the Nuremberg Tribunal. His ...