2012-06-21 / Front Page
Sayreville school honored as greenest in N.J.
Special needs learning center described as a ‘pioneering example of sustainable design’
The Center for Lifelong Learning, a school for autistic and multiply disabled students in Sayreville’s Parlin section has become the first New Jersey public school to reach the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum level.
Platinum is the highest of four levels of certification and reflects the environmental advocacy efforts made by the Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission (MRESC) during the facility’s construction. USA Architects designed the 85,000- square-foot special education school on Cheesequake Road using all-natural building materials and green power.
MRESC Superintendent Mark Finkelstein expressed pride in the achievement during CLL’s graduation ceremony on June 13. He noted that it was not only the first public school in the state to gain LEED Platinum certification, but also the first special needs school in the country to do so. The facility is also among the top 20 schools nationally in terms of energy usage.
Rick Fedrizzi, USGBC’s president and CEO, cited the school, which opened in 2009, for its “pioneering example of sustainable design and… its leadership in transforming the building industry.” According to Fedrizzi, CLL’s LEED rating reflected 58 documented and approved points, which corresponded to the Platinum certification level under the LEED for Schools rating system.
Signs posted on the facility’s walls detail various aspects of its environmental design, including its linoleum flooring, low-emitting materials, water conservation, lighting system controls, aerators on faucets and showers, solar panels, waterless urinals and dual-flush toilets. The facility boasts 24 classrooms, a gym, a fitness center, a lap pool and zero-entry pool, a green house, a sensory room and dedicated occupational, physical and speech therapy rooms. About 94 percent of the materials used to build the facility are recyclable, and geothermal wells under the building catch nearly 75 percent of the rainfall to be recycled and reused.
“We have a student population that is often more sensitive to toxins like formaldehyde and other contaminants,” said Patrick Moran, MRESC business administrator. “Having the opportunity to build a green school was important because it ensures a healthy environment for all students and staff members.”
The school is currently a second home to 140 staff members and 183 students, ages 3 to 21. Despite the facility’s many technical distinctions, Finkelstein said it is the work going on inside the building that is worth noting.
“Yes, this is a magnificent facility…but the significance of the Center for Lifelong Learning is not about the brick and mortar that we used to construct it,” he said during the graduation. “This is a special, magical environment where dreams come true.”
During the ceremony, six eighth-grade students graduated. Friends and family members gathered in the gym to watch them receive their diplomas and witness choral performances by the junior and senior choruses.
The graduating students benefit from an individualized education that provides a 2:1 autism, and a 3:1 student-to-staff ratio for students with multiple disabilities. The CLL program also includes applied behavior analysis, direct instruction in math, reading, language and spelling, community-based instruction and vocational training. Older students conduct job sampling at ShopRite and Dollar Quest in Sayreville, Kohl’s and BJ’s in Old Bridge, and Staples, Best Buy and A.C. Moore in East Brunswick.
CLL Supervisor Danielle Chryssikos, who is a board-certified behavior analyst, is particularly proud of the program she devised with Principal Debbie Nappi.
“To think about where we were when we started in 2009 and where we are now is just awesome,” Chryssikos said. “Out of 183 children, I know almost all of their parents. We’re all working together. We’re a family. That is definitely what our building is all about.”
CLL is one of seven MRESC schools. Established in 1977, the MRESC provides specialized, auxiliary and remedial services to thousands of eligible special needs students.
Contact Deanna McLafferty at DMcLafferty@gmnews.com.