WICKATUNK, NJ: Collier School will welcome students back to campus five days a week, starting in September. As long as Governor Murphy permits in-person instruction, Collier is prepared to deliver. Why? “Because we know our students and families need us to re-open. We know that students receiving special education services are more likely to be negatively affected by remote learning and may be disproportionally impacted by the interruption in regular education”, states Cynthia D’Arcy, Director of Education. Collier provides quality education as well as a wide range of therapeutic and supportive services that give our students a strong foundation that leads to personal success.
During these past several months with mandated remote learning, Collier took swift action to make sure that every student in need was provided a Chromebook and WiFi access. “We know how important consistency and structure is for our students and their families and our remote schedule was a mirror image of on campus classes” stated D’Arcy. Students followed their regular class schedule every day. In addition, all of Collier’s supportive services: speech, occupational therapy, one-on-one and group counseling, transition services, and psychiatric evaluations and monitoring were delivered virtually to make sure there were no gaps. It was challenging but not impossible. True to fashion, Collier staff were creative and committed! After school and weekend one-on-one tutoring sessions were available to all students. Morning community meetings incorporating a daily mindfulness activity, and homeroom and daily announcements continued seamlessly. “We were even able to pull off field day and battle of the classes (although I don’t particularly care for the aggressive image ‘battle’ conjures up) and good old fashion fun prevailed, said, Sr. Debbie Drago, Executive Director of Collier Youth Services!
As Collier gears up for our September opening date, we are following all the Department of Health, Department of Education and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. “The physical safety and emotional well-being of our students and staff are at the fore of all our decisions. For parents who feel more comfortable having their child continue remotely, we support that decision”, said D’Arcy. Collier is privileged to serve students with special emotional, behavioral and mental health needs from over 80 districts throughout the state. D’Arcy continued, “We take seriously our obligation to and partnership with our districts and parents making sure that everything written in a student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) is strictly followed and implemented.
For the 2020-2021 academic year all classrooms have been outfitted with hybrid technology and videoconferencing capabilities allowing for classes to be taught in-person and remotely in real-time in this new hybrid environment. All teachers will be participating in professional development training focusing on hybrid learning. In addition, all conference rooms and counseling offices have been equipped with videoconferencing technology to deliver counseling sessions and Child Study Team conferences virtually.
Although the precautions that are being put in place in response to COVID-19, will be a big change to school life as usual, the love, nurturing and care will remain constant. There is an expression that the founder of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, originators of Collier School would often say about how the youth should be treated - “Just Love!” “We have even created distance reminder signs and floor decals to help all of us social and physical distance, ‘Just Love by keeping 6 feet apart!’ " said Sr. Drago.
Collier School Collier Middle and High School is a state-approved, private, non-profit school for students with disabilities whose needs cannot be met within the public school. The school's departmentalized academic program prepares students for admission into four-year colleges, community colleges, and technical/vocational schools, and full-time employment.
Collier's strong counseling component combines individual as well as group therapy that encourages and supports social and emotional growth for all students. Clubs, sport teams, and activities round out the educational program, giving students extracurricular opportunities similar to those offered in public schools.
This year Collier School will be creative in how clubs and sports are offered, however being located on 250 acres of woodlands and a stream with seven miles of trails, lends itself to offering a variety of outdoor opportunities. Some clubs such as chess will be offered remotely, while choir and drama will take place on the green between the high school building and Smith Hall. For Physical Education our students will be bike riding, playing Disc Golf and enjoying nature and all that it has to offer physically and emotionally with a renewed sense of gratitude and pleasure.
In addition to Collier School, Collier’s State approved Community Transition program will be welcoming eleven students who will participate in a variety of activities that include but are not limited to virtual college classes, structured learning experience opportunities, career assessments, vocational courses, specialized tutoring, post graduate counseling as well as other college and career readiness lessons and activities. Students in the program will also benefit from individual and group counseling sessions which aim to ensure that each individual has the support they need to most successfully manage their transition process.
Collier School will remain diligent, flexible and poised to transition to full remote learning with virtual supportive services should we need to move in that direction.
Collier Youth Services has been serving at-risk children and youth, full of promise and potential, since 1927. For more information and to view the full Reopening Plan and Procedures, visit the website at www.collieryouthservices.org To read an in-depth article about Collier Youth Services, and its interesting history, Click HERE.