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DCF Cape May Campus Will ‘Transition’ by 2010

 

By Al Campbell

CREST HAVEN — Approximately 40 pupils who attend classes at the Cape May Campus of the state Department of Children and Families will “transition” by 2010.
That means they will be attending another school, possibly Special Services School or their local districts.
The redbrick school that adjoins the county Veterans’ Cemetery on Crest Haven Road is among 18 statewide operated by the department’s Office of Education that will cease to operate by 2010, according to Kate Bernyk, spokesperson for the state Department of Children and Families, which operates the schools.
The student body includes pregnant and parenting teens as well as those adjudicated youths and others deemed “at risk” who have not been successful in their home districts.
Programs operated at the school, under Principal Brian Smith, include TEC (Transition Education Center) and TEACH program for pregnant and parenting teen mothers.
Students attend from Middle and Lower townships, Wildwood, Ocean City and Millville.
A mother, who contacted the Herald about the school’s pending closure, said she had been told it was due to state budget cuts.
That is not true, said Bernyk.
“We are in the process of transitioning those regional schools,” she said. The educational responsibility is being shifted to other public educational areas.
The mother, who gave only her first name, Carlin, said her 16-year-old daughter lived in Woodbine.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Carlin said.
“What is this showing kids? There are young mother learning about parenting,” she added.
She said her daughter has been attending the Cape May Campus since October, and that the school “made such an impact on her, I don’t understand why the governor is closing it down. Some of the girls have babies. Is it because they don’t have enough funds?” she asked.
For each pupil, transfer to a new school will differ, due to individual needs, Bernyk said.
Some students may be “mainstreamed” into their home districts while others may go to programs provided by contract providers, she added.
Closures will take place on a “rolling basis,” Bernyk said. First to go will be those schools in Atlantic, Burlington, Monmouth and Warren counties, as well as Wanaque, Passaic County.
Needs of the students will dictate coordination with local schools, she added.
“We will be notifying the parents and school staffs,” she added.
“Each school will have an individual transition plan,” she continued.
“For example, we might have the Cape May County Special Service School District take over the entire program,” Bernyk stated.
In the course of the past few years, Bernyk said there has been a declining trend in enrollment at the schools.
“Local schools have more capacity to serve their own districts,” she continued.
Because of the reforms being made in the department, Bernyk said it had become necessary to “reform our effort to focus on our core mission.”
“We started to see overall enrollment declining and the Department of Children and Families is not legally responsible for education,” she said.
Staff members at the schools will no longer be state employees, Bernyk said.
The department will assist employees seeking other work, she said.
The department will also work “very diligently with Civil Service and contract rules,” she noted.
“In addition to our priority to highest education, we will be very diligent on how we care for our staff,” she said.
She said he would “work to place employees in vacant positions where qualified.”
TEACH Program (Teen Education and Child Health) is an alternative, year-round education program for pregnant or parenting teens. It serves students at risk of school failure.
TEC is Transitional Education Center, and is an alternative, year-round educational program designed to meet the need of an array of “at risk” students.
Those students are between 13 and 21 and have not completed high school.

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