The new 55,000 square foot home for the Future Foundations Academy (FFA) will open its doors for students 13-21 with Autism Spectrum Disorders in April.
Located on the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey’s (ESCNJ) Piscataway Campus on Stelton Road, the new facility will run an Extended School Year program over the summer, and be available to students for the entire 2019-2020 school year.
“We now have the room to fully prepare higher functioning students with Autism Spectrum Disorders to live independently to the fullest extent possible,” said Superintendent Mark J. Finkelstein.
The facility features 12 classrooms, dedicated space for Horticultural, Culinary, Community-based Instruction and Family Living programs, a Makerspace for collaborative projects, Lucy’s Café, and a Fitness Center, which includes a gymnasium and exercise equipment.
The ESCNJ also designated 8,000 square feet in the facility for its Professional Development Academy (PDA), and will relocate it from its cramped Media Center location in September. The PDA will be isolated from the classrooms, have its own entrance, a 300-seat capacity (which can be reconfigured for smaller meetings), contemporary lighting and sound systems, and plasma screens. Along with professional development, the PDA will be used to host seminars for community partners such as the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson and other organizations.
“We had to wait list some Child Study Team members for a recent Special Services Academy Program, so we are excited to have more room to work with,” said Assistant Superintendent Gary Molenaar.
The FFA features simulated work environments so students can strengthen their vocational skills in preparation for job sampling opportunities with dozens of community employers, including: Rutgers University; ShopRite; Robert Wood Johnson Hospital; Elijah’s Promise; Burger King; T.J. Maxx and International American Supermarkets.
The school will also be environmentally friendly, said School Business Administrator Patrick M. Moran, who managed construction of the entire project.
“We incorporated many of the features used at the Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL),” said Mr. Moran.
The CLL was the first New Jersey public school to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum level, the highest of four LEED certification levels.
The FFA was featured on two recent ESCNJ Better Together podcasts: https://www.escnj.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=2704&ViewID=E324842B-E4A3-44C3-991A-1E716D4A99E3&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=11924&PageID=9,
featured Board Executive Committee Member Dr. Susan Genco, Mr. Molenaar, Mr. Moran and Assistant Supervisor Dr. Rosaura Bagolie; and https://www.escnj.us/cms/lib/NJ02211024/Centricity/Domain/8/BT3%20FFA.mp3,
featured Board Member Beth Moroney, FFA Principal Sandy Giardino, Case Manager Kate Johnson, and Classroom Teacher Lindsey Medeiros.
The ESCNJ offers support services for school districts statewide, in addition to operating six schools in Middlesex County for student’s ages 3-21 with autism spectrum disorders, multiple disabilities, and at-risk behaviors. The largest Educational Services Commission in New Jersey, the ESCNJ 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.