Creating a healthy and nurturing learning environment has always been important to the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey (ESCNJ). And with special education families eager for in-person support during the pandemic, safety has become its top priority.
As the state’s largest educational services commission, it includes seven schools for students ages 3-21 with autism, multiple disabilities and at-risk behavior. ESCNJ also provides educational and business services to nearly every school district and most municipalities throughout the state, despite a lingering pandemic.
Finishing up its seventh week of in-person instruction, ESCNJ Schools Superintendent Mark Finkelstein credits his team for developing a comprehensive plan of action when schools first closed in March.
“It’s important that we stay open for not only our students but our families and staff as well,” he said. “Early on, the ESCNJ team identified that we had to develop our own set of guidelines – both for education and health – to meet the immediate needs of all concerned during this unprecedented time.”
ESCNJ’s plan comprises specific protocols and communication tools to be used if any student or staff member shows COVID-19 symptoms. All staff members have copies of the written guidelines to ensure there is uniformity among the schools.
“All of our staff members – from the teachers, to the aides, to the custodians – are the heroes that show up every day to provide our students with the support they need,” Finkelstein added. “The pandemic has dominated everyday life at ESCNJ, but our team works tirelessly to ensure this is always a safe place to learn.”
Education at ESCNJ heavily focuses on preparing students for life outside of the classroom, which includes teaching vital life and job skills. With its extensive network of community partners, ESCNJ has students employed at more than 40 work sites in central New Jersey.
ESCNJ also recently launched the Adult Community Services (ACS) program, which offers individuals with disabilities ages 21 and over an opportunity to strive for independence by helping to develop their social, emotional and life skills.
ESCNJ is forming an advisory committee and is looking to create a diverse group comprising business, government and non-profit leaders in central New Jersey.
MCRCC members are encouraged to join the committee, which will meet regularly to identify ways in which ACS participants can build professional relationships within the community that can hopefully lead to long-term employment.
The ESCNJ campus in Piscataway also features a state-of-the-art Professional Conference Center that opened last year. While the campus is not open for on-site usage for the public because of the pandemic, ESCNJ leaders are eagerly looking forward to hosting meetings and professional development workshops as soon as it is safe to do so.
Finkelstein said there will be special pricing for MCRCC members. The conference center is an ideal place to meet, located in the heart of Middlesex County, near mass transit and major highways, with plenty of parking.
The more than 4,000-square-feet of meeting space can accommodate both small and medium events with LED screens, interactive podiums, lighting, sound and all the other features of a modern, professional facility.
If you are interested in serving on the ACS advisory committee, please contact the executive director, Allison Sanchez, at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about ESCNJ and opportunities at the Professional Conference Center, visit www.escnj.us.