A new school—-a large one (160,000 square feet)—-for autistic students is to open its doors in June in New Jersey. 80 to 90 students will start attending the Morris-Union Jointure Commission’s new Developmental Learning Center; there is room for 220 students aged 3 – 21, as noted in today’s Star-Ledger. The $41.4 million dollar project is to feature “two indoor swimming pools, an indoor track, and a Main Street where students can work as employees and act as customers at businesses such as a diner, bank and hardware store”; there will also be an area resembling a hotel lobby. Kim Coleman, Superintendant of the Morris-Union Jointure (a consortium of public school districts that also run some other centers) notes that the school’s opening is more than timely, in the wake of the CDC’s recent announcement that 1 our of 94 children in New Jersey have autism.
I have read about this school in its planning and building processes and much mention has been made of elaborate “‘jaw-dropping’” (as Cathy Douma, past president of the commission’s parent group, notes) facilities and also the traffic congestion feared by residents in the vicinity of the new school, which is on a local thoroughfare. The facilities certainly sound excellent—there are “age-appropriate wings” for the students—-but, as a parent, I would also like to know about the teaching methodologies to be used and the educational curricula; how will the students be taught to use the “bank”? Will they then be taught to go to a real bank? I am sure provision has been made for all these and hope to hear more about these—as much as about the swimming pools: A good school is built on good teaching, first of all.