2009-10-29 / Schools

Special-needs students being taught life skills

BY DAVE BENJAMIN Staff Writer

PLUMSTED — New Egypt High School has introduced a 12-Plus program for special-needs students.

"The main objective of the program is to prepare our students for the important steps in their lives," Plumsted Superintendent of Schools Mark DeMareo said. "As they take the journey to adulthood, we will support and extend their efforts to become responsible, productive young adults in their community."

The new program has been created to meet the needs of the first group of specialneeds students from New Egypt High School who will be remaining in the Plumsted School District until they are 21 years old as provided by the New Jersey Special Education Code, the superintendent explained.

Keeping students in their own neighborhood school to the greatest extent possible as they begin their transition to adult life and productive citizenship in the community is the vision of the school district, DeMareo said.

"Our commitment is to inclusive education for all students," he said.

New Egypt High School Principal Tom Farrell said he is proud of the new program.

"The new in-house high school 12-Plus program is fantastic," Farrell said. "Our staff is instilling life-long learning skills to our students. These life skills will prove invaluable to our students in the future."

Special education teacher Barbara Weaver and paraprofessional Craig Conk work in the special-needs classroom, which is called the Learning Cottage.

They provide their students with functional academics in literacy and math, activities of daily living, technology, related arts, social skills and pre-vocational skills, all of which follow the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards.

Plumsted Supervisor of Special Services Jodie Greene said she thinks the school district has a unique program.

Greene said the Learning Cottage is set up to resemble an apartment so the students can gain firsthand knowledge about living independently. These skills are taught in a real-life setting so that the probability of carrying over the skills to reality is significantly increased, Greene said.

One day each week, students attend the Career Pathways Program at the Dorothy B. Hersh High School in Tinton Falls, Monmouth County. The Dorothy B. Hersh High School is a fully accredited private school for students with developmental disabilities between the ages of 14 and 21.

In this program, the special-needs students experience career reading and math, involvement in community-based instruction (which may include volunteering at community sites), attending field trips, and participation in structured learning experiences in retail, food service, janitorial work and day care.

The students are learning how to engage in computer job searches and how to complete a job application, said Greene.

Educators at the Dorothy B. Hersh High School work with educators in the Plumsted School District to locate appropriate employment for students who stay in New Egypt.

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