As an educational consultant and special needs advocate, I periodically visit special needs schools to tour in person because I only recommend schools to my clients that I have personally visited and vetted. This blog post series highlights the top special needs schools in the United States I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and gives an inside look at what makes them so great.
Mahwah, New Jersey
About The School
Sage Day School is a private, credited, therapeutic school located in Northern New Jersey that admits children grades 4 through 12. Sage Day has four (4) different locations: Sage Day Middle and High School located in Princeton, New Jersey, Sage Day High School located in Boonton, New Jersey, Sage Day Lower/Middle School located in Mahwah, New Jersey and Sage Day High School located in Rochelle Park, New Jersey.
Regardless of which Sage Day School a child attends, they focus on 4 Key Features:
- Student Well Being
- Community - Focused Culture
- Customized Therapy and Academics
- The Sage Graduate
Additionally, they use a Team Approach which is very basic. Faculty, therapists and the appropriate staff meet on a regular basis to discuss the student’s needs as well as issues. Communication is key here as it is imperative that everyone is all on the same page and working with the child to allow for the optimal positive result.
Strong academics are a must. The school’s goal is to serve the whole child, from their academics to their emotional needs to social situations. I envision the school as a puzzle - all the pieces have to fit properly and work together seamlessly. At times, when it does not, appropriate changes are made with the only goal being of serving the child completely.
Complimenting the strong academics is a comprehensive clinical program that includes individual, group and family therapy that is completed during the school day. Many times the child is tired to first go to an outside therapist after school or perhaps the parent or caregiver do not have the means to bring the child to an outside therapist. For whatever the reason, having the child be able to fulfill the therapeutic needs at the school make it easier for everyone, especially the child. Most important it allows for the child to feel the most comfortable in an environment that is safe for them to speak freely and not feel judged.
The population that attend Sage Day are considered to be emotionally fragile. This fragility can be present for many reasons but the most important aspect is that it is being addressed head on with caring, interested, well qualified people who are at Sage Day for all the right reasons. Some diagnosis’s that the children possess are depression, anxiety disorder, school phobia as well as others. The school has a comprehensive intake procedure in order to see if a child genuinely belongs at Sage Day. If it is determined that Sage Day is not the appropriate placement for a child, they will be very forthcoming with the family and tell them so.
I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Sage Day School located in Mahwah, New Jersey and meeting with the Executive Director, John Reilly and Clinical Director, Alison Hipscher.
From the moment I walked into the school, I was greeted by the secretary to the principal, who was welcoming, kind and exuded such pleasure working in this school. From there, I went on to meet the principal who was just as welcoming, kind and possessed a strong demeanor of someone who was in control and ran a “tight ship.”
I was lucky enough to spend a considerable amount of time speaking with John and Alison in order to learn about Sage Day, their curriculum, their support services and the environment that the school lends itself to in regards to not only the students but their families, which is so important. Why, you ask? The family is such an integral part of the success of each and every student who attends, whether it be the lower, middle or high school level.
Alison was kind enough to give me the tour of the school, explaining everything in depth with leaving no stone unturned. We spent a considerable amount of time together: visiting the classrooms, the therapy rooms, meeting some of the students (which were so sweet and happy) as well as meeting some of the staff. Everyone that I met was happy, had a positive feeling of engagement and truly wanted to be there and loved what they were doing.
The staff and administration set expectations and standards that are followed however they continually evaluate them in order to improve.
The time I spent at Sage Day - Mahwah was uplifting, hopeful and genuinely a ray of sunshine for the children who are sometimes not “taken care of” as they should be. It was time well spent and if appropriate, I would recommend Sage Day to families hands down. This school is a diamond in the rough should you be interested in finding a school within their geographical area.