College, local school district partner to open alternative high school, early childhood center

By: Andrew Mees, Director of College and Athletics Communications                              

Bloomfield College and the Bloomfield Township School District began a new academic year by taking the first steps in a groundbreaking partnership, as the entities opened a pair of schools that welcomed their first Township residents in early September.

“Everywhere you turn, you read about the problems facing education; but you rarely hear about innovative solutions between higher education institutions and their nearby school districts that are truly creating positive change,” said College Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Marion Terenzio. “We could not be happier to partner with the Bloomfield School District in this comprehensive initiative, and help to serve the community we both share.”

As part of the bond, the parties opened the Early Childhood Center at Forest Glen on Sept. 2, a new education center for pre-kindergarten students. Operated by the school district, the College will help oversee curriculum development for the Center, helping to institute a Reggio Emilia-inspired educational philosophy within the classroom environments which will contain no more than 15 students apiece.

Based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community, the Reggio Emilia approach allows these guiding principles to be learned through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment. The philosophy also maintains that children must have some control over the direction of their learning, and must be able to learn through the experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing and hearing.

“The collaboration with the Bloomfield School District represents a unique opportunity to bring to a public school a renowned early childhood education model," College education division Chairperson Dr. Nora Krieger said. "Reggio Emilia-inspired programs are guided by a central belief that children are powerful, competent people. We are hoping that, by starting with this principle, we can collaborate and help the Bloomfield preschool teachers in furthering their professional development to provide young children unique and effective learning experiences.”

On Sept. 5, the organizations opened Liberty Academy, an alternative high school on the College’s campus. Located in Voorhees Hall, the school allows for in-district placement of the district’s classified high school special education students.

The self-contained program will allow 10 students from grades 10-12 to see themselves as future college students, a powerful environment created on the College’s grounds. Liberty Academy students will have access to outdoor common areas, with potential plans in place to further expand the integrated relationship.

The school will follow the Big Picture Model of education, which fosters change in K-12 education by generating and sustaining innovative, personalized learning environments that work in tandem with the real world of their greater community. The model centers on the equality of each student, and that all students can truly achieve success.

“All students can learn, and they can learn by being a more involved part of their community,” Liberty Academy Principal Kerry DiGiacinto said. “The individualized approach to learning and the students’ involvement in their local community is what really drove us towards the Big Picture Model. Because the College is so embedded in our Township, it was a natural fit for a partnership, and we are so happy it has been able to become a reality.”

In addition to the opening of the schools, Bloomfield College students majoring in education will have the opportunity to student teach in the areas, one of the many highlights featured in the partnership. The sides will also establish a professional development program for both College faculty and district teachers, with College faculty having the opportunity to participate in the operation of the partnership.

“The school district would like to sincerely thank the Bloomfield College trustees and administrators for their vision of what our community can be when we collaborate,” Board of Education President Shane Berger said. “After nearly 150 years of being neighbors, we are now coming together to change our students’ lives forever.” 

Click here to view photos of the Early Childhood Center at Forest Glen

Click here to view photos of Liberty Academy

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