News Details

Ground Broken for new Bankbridge Development Center Construction for the school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder will be ready for 2007

(Deptford, NJ) - With shovels at the ready, the Gloucester County Board of Freeholders, students, and members of the Gloucester County Special Services School District (GCSSSD) happily dug-in to officially break ground on the new Bankbridge Development Center today.

"It is an important day for Gloucester County, our students and our families as we break ground to get construction underway for this school that is specially designed to educate children with autism spectrum disorder and give them an equal opportunity for success," Freeholder Director Stephen M. Sweeney said. 

"We have built two fantastic schools for children with special needs in the Bankbridge Elementary and Bankbridge Regional Schools, and it is time to do the same for children with autism," Sweeney stated.

Sweeney said that Bankbridge Development Center, which will be operated by the Gloucester County Special Services School District, will serve up to 200 multiply disabled students with a focus on Autism from pre-school age to age 21.  The 52,016 square foot school will have 20 classrooms and is being built on the campus of Gloucester County College.

"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, and keep children closer to their home while giving them a state-of-the art facility where they will have the best opportunity to learn," stated Sweeney.

May 5, 2006
County Breaks Ground on Autism School

Based on the NJ Department of Education Private Schools for the Disabled Revised Tentative Tuition Rates 2004-2005, it costs taxpayers at least $50,000 for tuition and transportation a year to educate one autistic child out of their district.  It is anticipated that the new Bankbridge Development Center will ultimately save county taxpayers $1 million per year.

"We have a tremendous educational partnership happening in Gloucester County," said Freeholder Joseph A. Brigandi, Jr. who serves as the Board's liaison to education.  "All of our educational facilities " GCIT, GCSSSD, and Gloucester County College have come together to help the county build its vision for this school to serve our autistic children."

Brigandi explained that 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.  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.

"We have a proven track record of our shared services in education being successful for both the students and the taxpayers," Brigandi stated.

Freeholder Deputy Director Damminger said that national statistics show that 1 in 166 children are diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder annually.  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.

"This new school will replace the autistic spectrum programs currently offered at the county's Fries Mill location and expand the number and ages of students served.  All of our children deserve the opportunity to learn in an atmosphere designed to help them, not hinder them, and that is what Bankbridge Development Center will offer," stated Deputy Director Damminger.

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.