The Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts is running three high quality special class programs for students with Autism spectrum disorders and saving New Brunswick taxpayers thousands of dollars. Now in its third year of operation, the special class program is a partnership between the New Brunswick Public Schools and the Collaborative Educational Services (CES) division of the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ).“
"We increasingly hear positive feedback from parents, and the program is growing as word about this resource spreads in the New Brunswick community,” said ESCNJ Supervisor Antoinette Nicholasi.
The preschool, K-1, and K-2 classes make it possible for students with Autism spectrum disorders to receive comprehensive services from ESCNJ staff in their home district, rather than traveling to costly private special education schools.The CES initiative has been implemented in other Middlesex County schools in the past including the Edison Township and Sayreville Public Schools.
“Often districts do not have the resources or expertise to effectively meet the educational and therapeutic needs of students on the Autism spectrum” said ESCNJ Assistant Superintendent Gary Molenaar.
“With the CES, students stay in their home district and receive the same level of service as students in the six schools we operate in Middlesex County,” Mr. Molenaar said.
In addition to Supervisor Nicholasi, the ESCNJ provides three teachers, seven instructional aides, and occupational, speech and physical therapy services. Case Manager oversight is also included to ensure each students’ Individualized Education Program (IEP) is implemented in accordance with federal, state, and district regulations.
The New Brunswick collaboration gained traction last September when it moved into the newly constructed wing of the Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts, after operating in temporary space the first two years.
“Parents and students feel like they have a home now that that we’re settled into our new classrooms,” said Ms. Nicholasi.
Assistant Superintendent Molenaar said the collaboration allows for “a seamless transition for students when they are ready to move into a mainstream setting in their New Brunswick school.”
The CES collaboration has also significantly reduced special education expenditures for the New Brunswick Public Schools. Based on 2018-2019 tuition rates from the New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of School Finance, private special education tuition ranges from approximately $68,000-$100,000 per student. Tuition rates through the CES program range from $45,000-$65,000. Districts “conservatively speaking,” realize another 25 percent savings per student when factoring in transportation costs, said ESCNJ Business Administrator Patrick M. Moran.
The Educational Services Commission of New Jersey offers CES and other support services for school districts throughout the state, in addition to operating six schools in Middlesex County. The largest Educational Services Commission in New Jersey, the ESCNJ also coordinates transportation services for over 12,000 students, and manages a 1,250 member Co-op Pricing System, the largest cooperative buying program in New Jersey.