News Details

Construction Contract for Bankbridge Development Center to be Awarded Tonight The School for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder will be built

(Deptford, NJ) – Gloucester County Freeholder Director Stephen M. Sweeney and Freeholder Joseph A. Brigandi Jr. announced that the construction of a school specifically designed to serve children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is moving ahead with the award of a construction contract at this evening’s Gloucester County Special Services School District (GCSSSD) meeting.

“We are very enthusiastic about this new school and moving forward,” said Freeholder Director Sweeney. “The new school will replace the autistic spectrum programs currently offered at our Fries Mill location and expand the number and ages of students served. The new autism school will maximize classroom design to specifically address issues as specialized lighting, textures and bathroom accessibility so that difficulties related to the disorder are minimized and the learning environment is maximized.”

“We owe it to our children to provide them with the best educational opportunities and we owe it to our taxpayers to accomplish that education with efficiency. This new school will result in at least a $25,000 savings annually per child,” stated Sweeney.

Freeholder Director Sweeney noted that based on the NJ DOE Private Schools for the Disabled Revised Tentative Tuition Rates 2004-2005, it currently costs taxpayers at least $50,000 for tuition and transportation a year to educate one autistic child out of their district. Gloucester County can educate these children for half that amount, while keeping them close to their homes. It is anticipated that the new Bankbridge Development Center will ultimately save county taxpayers $1 million per year

The school will be operated by the Gloucester County Special Services School District which currently operates Bankbridge Elementary and Bankbridge Regional schools. It is envisioned that the autism school would serve up to 200 students from pre-school age to age 21. The 52,016 square foot school will have 20 classrooms and be located on the campus of Gloucester County College.

March 15, 2006
Construction Contract for Bankbridge Development Center

Construction is slated to begin this spring and the school is slated to open in 2007. The one story brick building will be built on a 9-acre site. Schiavone Construction Company of Secaucus was awarded the general construction contact.
Freeholder Joseph A. Brigandi, Jr., liaison to Education for the county, said, “Our Gloucester County Special Services School District has been ranked first in the state for having the lowest cost per pupil for special services districts by the New Jersey Department of Education. We have a proven track record of that our shared services in education is successful to both the students and the taxpayers.”

Brigandi noted that GCSSSD and GCIT have had a shared services agreement since 2001. By sharing a Superintendent and administrations between the two districts the GCIT and GCSSSD save over $1 million in salaries and benefit a year on administration alone. “The new Bankbridge Development Center will operate under the same administration and we are confident they will be able to create better efficiency and opportunity with this new facility,” said Freeholder Brigandi.

National statistic show a growing need for such services as 1 in 166 children is diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder. According to the US Department of Education, in 2002, 118,602 children in the country were classified with autism, which was up from 12,222 in 1992 or nearly a ten-fold increase.

Greyhawk North America, LLC is the district’s project management firm and Garrison Architects is the firm who designed the facility.

The GCSSSD is entering into an agreement with the Department of Education for debt service to be paid by the state on a yearly basis to offset the cost of the project. The Gloucester County Improvement Authority (GCIA) has bonded for the construction for this project on the County’s behalf.