Cinnaminson High School life skills teachers give update on class

Life skills students at the high school are out and working in the community

A life skills classroom with a washer and dryer as well as a kitchen was part of the Cinnaminson High School construction project. Photo courtesy of Daniel Rella.

Cinnaminson High School life skills teachers Jessica Harris, Daniel Rella and Patrick McNamara gave an update on the life skills classes at the January Board of Education meeting.

The class was introduced for special needs students last year and had a class size of seven students. This year, there are 14 students in the life skills class, and Rella anticipates next year’s class to be 18–20 students.

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Two life skills classrooms were part of the Cinnaminson High School reconstruction project that spanned the last year and a half. While one room resembles a traditional high school classroom, the other is complete with a full kitchen as well as a washer and dryer.

“The fact that we’ve been able to offer two classrooms for different levels of students is really beneficial, and I think it makes us feel proud that we’re doing things the right way,” Rella said.

Rella elaborated that his and McNamara’s class focuses more on academics with a social skills and life skills component, whereas Harris’ class focuses more on life skills and independent living skills.

Rella says the class is taking an educational trip outside of the classroom every Wednesday as opposed to the one to two trips per month they took last year.

Harris detailed the community-based instruction trips the class has taken this year.

“It’s hands-on, and it gives students authentic experiences,” Harris said.

The students have taken trips to Wal-Mart, Outlaw Training and Fitness, the Burlington County Animal Shelter and the Cinnaminson Fire Department, among other places.

Harris said these trips are meant to give students the life experiences they have often missed out on.

McNamara spoke about the structured learning experiences in the classes. Structured learning experiences are opportunities for the special needs students to work in the community. Juniors in the class go twice per week, and seniors go four times per week. Students are supervised by a job coach at all times while they’re working.

Businesses that employ the students include The Merion, Haines Farm and Garden Supply, Laurel Lanes, Todd Marcus Birds Exotic, Gramma’s School House and Nick’s Pizza. According to McNamara, one student was offered a part-time job outside of placement at Haines Farm and Garden Supply.

“I knew this was a great community … but I didn’t expect to get so many [businesses],” McNamara said. “We’re going to continue to try to add valuable placements in this community.”

McNamara says the teachers will continue to try to improve the program.

“We’re all lucky to work in a place that is so supportive,” he said. “We’re excited to see how much we can grow this.”

In other news:

• Superintendent Salvatore Illuzzi announced the board and the Cinnaminson Education Association have reached an agreement for a contract that will span from 2017–2020.

“We feel that it is mutually beneficial to our township as well as our teaching and professional staff,” Illuzzi said.

CEA President Tamara Gross agreed.

“We believe that this is a fair contract which clearly recognizes both parties’ commitment to the community and certainly to the children,” Gross said.

• The next board of education meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

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