By CAROL GORGA WILLIAMS
The financially strapped Asbury Park school district is gathering information to determine whether resurrecting the alternate school on campus would produce meaningful savings as well as lasting changes in behavioral problems.
Schools Superintendent RaShawn M. Adams included the potential of restoring the current alternate school.
Currently, students who commit infractions that so severely violate the student code of conduct are suspended for 45 days. A suspension of that term then immediately subjects students to out-of-district disciplinary programs and sometimes creates difficulty in reintegrating students back into the district after so long away.
Instead, Schools Superintendent RaShawn M. Adams Adams is suggesting the creation of The Asbury Park Academic Bridge 45- Day Program which would serve children in grades sixth through 12 who violate the student code of conduct disciplinary policies and require “A change of setting beyond short-term periods of exclusion.” In other words, when the infraction needs punishment in excess of typical 10-day student suspensions, students are sent to off-district programs.
The new program, according to the superintendent’s description, would provide students with the district’s current academic support and New Jersey Virtual School courses in age and grade appropriate classrooms so academic work continues without interruption .
Students also would receive services offered after the superintendent’s hearing determines a need for ongoing social and emotional learning support.
Counseling services or group services will continue and reports submitted every 10 days to provide recommendations for intervention strategies, attendance, instructional and behavioral programs that may help each student return and thrive in the school mainstream.
Students may be placed in the Bridge program for longer than 45 days if officials determine they are not ready to return to the mainstream.
Board Member Tracy Rogers caused a delay in approval of the proposal when he asked to see financial records for the last three years to determine the extent of sending children out of district.
Board Member Guiseppe “Joe” Grillo had questions about where in the district the alternate school would be located, considering there have been concerns from parents about mingling younger pupils with older students, a move that will be discontinued as Asbury Park High School will now only house students in ninth grade and above.
But if space requirements in the district are restrictive, the alternate school could go into any building from elementary to high school, provoking the same concerns about mixing students too young with significantly older students, Grillo said..
“We are spending $350,000” on these out-of-district disciplinary placements,” Adams said. “That in itself says we need to look at what the internal costs would be to the district…”
Rogers countered, saying it would be difficult for board members to make a decision without seeing financial reports.
“I would like to see those numbers before I vote,” Rogers said.
He also requested financial reports on the district’s special education programs but was told that is a separate issue.
Barbara Lesinski, who was acting as board president for the absent board president and vice president, said financial information would be provided to board members serving on the academic and curriculum and finance committees, which are closed to the public.