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Ridgewood school district’s program gives at-risk students an ally


Ridgewood school district’s program gives at-risk students an ally

APRIL 21, 2014    LAST UPDATED: MONDAY, APRIL 21, 2014, 5:28 PM

Last year, it was a struggle to get one Ridgewood student into the high school. Now, this student has nearly perfect attendance.

Another student is now going to school and taking more responsibility for his work, and the effects are trickling into the home: A strained parental relationship has improved, opened to more positive, supportive and less school-centric interactions.

Other students struggling with issues at home, like divorce, are now feeling just a little bit safer away from home.

These positive stories, shared by Ridgewood High School’s (RHS) new clinical supervisor Cayte Castrillon, come thanks to the first several months of a new therapeutic program at the high school that identifies at-risk youth for in-house counseling during the school day.

This extra level of care is a particularly important addition to the district now, when educators have less time, and the at-risk population, though still very small relative to the general population, is increasing along with general anxiety.

Helmed by Castrillon, a full-time employee of the private and accredited therapeutic school Sage Day, the RHS Sage Day program was introduced this fall to help students in need avoid out-of-district placement through the in-house management of their social and emotional issues, like school phobia.

Of the 16 students currently in the program, about half are special education students and half are general education students, and areas of concern include family issues, anxiety and substance abuse. Basically, this program helps these students continue experiencing “as close to a mainstream school experience as possible” and “avoid classification,” said Kim Buxenbaum-Turner, director of special programs for the Ridgewood school district.

By keeping children in school, the district is also saving an estimated $200,000 to $300,000 in out-of-district tuition costs.

“There’s a good five or six [students in the program] that would have needed another placement,” said RHS Assistant Principal Jeff Nyhuis.

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