16 Aug New Multi-disabled Program on Target (NJ)August 16, 2010
By: Deborah WalshSource: NorthJersey.com
The school district is moving forward with its plans to establish a class for multi-disabled students beginning in September.&l t;br />
Recently, Dr. Fredda Rosenberg, superintendent of schools, said the district has made progress in hiring staff for the class, which is a one-on-one type of program. Though it is unfortunate that the school budget crisis in New Jersey has caused districts to cut positions, Rosenberg indicated that it has resulted in numerous highly qualified applicants for the new positions in Bloomingdale.
The school board hired Pamela Havecker at a salary of $59,810 as the teacher of the multi-disabled class. The district has also started hiring aides for the program, she said.
Rosenberg said the program will start in September with three students.
"It’s a very unique program. The children have needs that are different than we see in our district. They will be included with their peers in this building in going to assemblies and other programs," she said.
When the program was approved in June, Rosenberg said the goal is to bring multi-disabled students back into the district who are currently placed out of the district. It is not unusual for these out-of-district placements to require more than an hour of travel time, she indicated.
"They are a considerable distance from home. They have serious neurological and medical involvement. We and their parents would feel much more comfortable if they were closer to home," she said. "These children travel over an hour to school one way. They have wheelchairs and aides with them. It is a very difficult and exhausting day for them."
Rosenberg said the district will attempt to replicate the effective and positive aspects of the programs the children currently attend. The county supervisor of special e ducation has already approved the program. The class will be located in a spacious, bright room at Samuel R. Donald School, Rosenberg said.
In addition to hiring an outstanding head teacher, Rosenberg said the district is looking for the right paraprofessionals and support therapists to ensure the program is a success. The district’s aim is to create a totally integrated program where therapy and academics walk hand in hand, she indicated.
While creating the program, Rosenberg said the district is also seeking input from parents who have multi-disabled children. The district wants parents to be part of their children’s therapy so they do not feel like outsiders when they visit the school, she said.
Another positive aspect of the program is that it is in a public school setting where the multi-disabled children will be exposed to the general education population. Currently, these students are attending special education schools, which tend to have an isolated environment, she indicated.
"It is also good for our general education students to have exposure to children with special needs. It will help raise their awareness. We are thinking of programs where the general education and multi-disabled students can interact," she said.
By law, the district can have a maximum of eight children in a multi-disabled class, spanning up to four years difference in age. If the program achieves success, Rosenberg expects it will attract more students from other nearby districts. Though it is anticipated the in-house program will save the district money, the amount it will save is not yet known because not all the staff has been hired and the equipment has not been purchased.