Bergen County school caters to students with psychiatric needs

From the outside, Paradigm Therapeutic Day School looks like any school, but it’s what’s going on inside that separates it from the rest.

“The reason why the students are here is because they’re not able to make it in their regular school districts now and/or they have an intense clinical needs, psychiatric needs, and those needs are being addressed here through the clinicians,” said Maureen Kerne, region V special education coordinator.

The private school celebrated its grand opening in September. It caters to students ages 12 to 21 who are classified as having behavioral disabilities and emotional disabilities. The student to staff ratio is 3 to 1.

Christian Linius is one of 14 students currently enrolled at the school

“I felt like it was difficult with all the people there to learn, and I was struggling academically,” Linius said.

Students like Linius are offered another level of mental health support which health care professionals say is not typically available in public or private schools. The round-the-clock service, for students and families both in and out of school, is provided for free by CarePlus.

“CarePlus is a comprehensive mental health and addiction center,” said Tara Augustine, Paradigm CEO and CarePlus COO. “We’ve been a part of a group that got together to really integrate mental health and school systems together.”

Students do not need to live in Bergen County to attend, but do need be classified by a school district’s child study team to enroll. Tuition is nearly $70,000 for a school year. Under federal law, the full amount is paid for by the student’s school district.

Each classroom is specifically designed to support the needs of students through a therapeutic and educational atmosphere.

“All the furniture that was purchased, was purchased specifically to be comfortable and not like the furniture they’ve had bad experiences with in their public schools,” said Paradigm Principal and Executive Director Jeff Kahn.

The school is in session from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 180 days a year like most traditional schools.

“They’ll graduate from here, but with their district diploma,” Kahn said. “They’ll never see in the record that they went to school at Paradigm. The transcript, the official transcript that that college will receive will be the district that they live in.”

Khan says the maximum number of students the school can accept is 40, but the goal is to mainstream them back into their districts.

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