Alternative for Bright School-Phobic Students

A small church in northern New Jersey has come up with an interesting and effective solution to the problem of school phobia among a few bright and talented students whose educational needs cannot be met in a regular classroom. They have started their own school, teaching 6 high school students at a time.

The Newbury School at Church of the Redeemer in Dumont, NJ, has 3 full time volunteer staff members; pastor Rev. James McKinley, his wife Jane McKinley, and director Dori Williams. All are New Jersey certified teachers. Two part time paid instructors are also on staff for special subjects. All students are give wireless laptop computers, and much instruction is enhanced by online resources. The school is certified by the state and adheres to core curriculum standards set by the New Jersey Department of Education. Tuition is $6,000 a year, less than many parochial high schools in the area, and far less than many special education programs cost.

Students who attend are bright and motivated. Some have come with Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, or physical or behavioral problems that make education in a normal classroom environment difficult. Since they are academic high achievers, often the special education classrooms do not meet their academic needs, and only address their disabilities. Some students don’t have any of these problems, they just want an individualized program, and cannot fit into a public school. James McKinley says that there is no consistent pattern, but the one commonality is that the students are “school phobic” because they have been failing in public school.

The environment is non pressured, and students must be able to direct their own learning – the school suits the students who have a high degree of intelligence and intiative. Last years graduates were the first to go on to college, and did well on their entrance exams. Junior and Seniors have the opportunity to take up to 9 college credits at Bergen Community College. The staff maintains strong communication with parents, often every day.

Newbury Academy was named after Mrs. McKinley’s family, and her inheritance provided much of the start up funding for the school. They are in the process of seeking Middle States Accreditation, and are in the process of filing the paperwork for this.

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