DEPTFORD TWP. -- The township
planning board offered little by way of feedback during a "courtesy
review" Wednesday of the proposed $12 million school for students
with autism and other complex disabilities pending state Department
of Education approval.
Architect Robert N. Garrison, of Garrison Architects, presented
the plans for the one-story, 46,200-square-foot school that is expected
to break ground in March 2006 near the intersection of Salina and Tanyard
roads. The 9-acre parcel -- on the GCC campus near the county office
of education -- is being leased to the Gloucester County Special Services
District by the college for $1.
The school, which officials say will complete the Bankbridge campus
that already includes a secondary and elementary special education school,
will serve approximately 125 students ages 3 to 21 with autism and multiple
disabilities. It will have two playgrounds, physical education and therapy
space and 185 parking spaces, according to the plans.
Garrison, whose firm designed a new middle school under construction
for the Kingsway Regional School District, said unlike most schools
his firm has designed, the specific details and layout were driven by
the unique programs that will be housed in the school.
"We have three schools within a school in order to meet educational
requirements of students on three different levels," Garrison said.
About 90 students at the district's Child Development Center in Washington
Township and another 35 students at the Bankbridge Regional and Bankbridge
Elementary facilities will be served at the new school, according to
Mike Dicken, special education director.
Since the school will house an existing program, Dicken said he anticipates
there will be only a minimal need for additional staffing. The building
is designed for future expansion to the westerly side, Garrison told
Councilman Paul Medany, who sits on the planning board, offered the
only feedback from the board when he asked for details about the school's
Autism is a complex developmental disorder that affects about 1 in 166
children nationwide. That figure is believed to be higher in Gloucester
County. The school has been touted by Freeholder Director Stephen M.
Sweeney, who announced the plans for the school at the board's reorganization
meeting in January.