New space opens to house Brearley’s Alternate Education Program

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KENILWORTH, NJ — David Brearley Middle and High School’s Alternate Education Program was established in December 2019 to further develop strategic, individualized support for students who may have difficulties in a traditional classroom setting.

Spearheaded by the district’s Student Personnel Services Department, the program includes flexible scheduling and pacing, as well as a less structured mindset that offers students a “flow-through” system of academic and social-emotional support.

Part of this support also includes a brand-new dedicated space, located on the right side of the school’s campus.

“Even with the pandemic and damage to the original facility, the program has continued to grow, and the students are really looking forward to finally moving into their new space,” said Director of Student Personnel Services Dawn Cuccolo.

After a severe windstorm put renovations of the original annex building on hold, the program was temporarily housed out of Brearley’s conference room. It was later determined that the 30-year-old annex structure needed to be completely replaced, and, between insurance reimbursements and district savings, plans for a new building were quickly underway.

“We were fortunate with the cost and time frame for the rebuilding process,” said school business administrator Vince Gonnella. “This building offers more space, including bathrooms, and has up-to-date technology and security features in place.”

The new annex will be home to three classrooms, where students and staff will work from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., independent of the main schedule’s structure. With comfort as a priority, the annex also provides open floor plans with plenty of flexibility, and students will be encouraged to decorate and make the space their own.

“The program is entirely need based, and, with guidance from their parents or guardians, students can choose to be a part of it,” said Cuccolo. “We’re always looking at graduation requirements, while assessing how we can get them there outside of traditional practices. We’re finding students reach remarkable success when given an opportunity to experience an education that meets them where they are.”

In addition to social and emotional support, the program offers recreational opportunities, a foundations curriculum, passion projects and independent study.

Kenilworth Superintendent Kyle Arlington said he hopes the program will serve as a model for the future of general education. “The way we’ve set it up, the Alternate Education Program has the students as our focus rather than the curriculum. It’s personalized for their needs and interests, and I think that’s exciting for how we develop general education moving forward.”

Brearley’s new annex building for the Alternate Education Program is open and ready for classes to begin, with a ribbon-cutting celebration planned at an as-yet undetermined date.

“We’re excited to see the program expand,” said Cuccolo. “The students have been able to watch this building be constructed over the course of several months expressly for their needs, and they couldn’t be more excited.”

Photos Courtesy of Sheri Berkery

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