RANDOLPH — All public schools in New Jersey are required to have transitional programs for students with qualifying special needs through age 21. In this school district, officials have taken that mandate to a new level by purchasing and renovating a house to serve as its own self-contained "transitional house."

Superintendent Jennifer Fano said when the house next to the high school went on the market, it seemed like the "perfect opportunity" — and, even before its ribbon-cutting on Sept. 5, had become an "amazing environment," with students working through the summer with one of their teachers on planning and building a garden.

"There were tears of joy, other parents coming up and just thanking us for creating this space," Fano said of the ribbon-cutting. "And even on social media we saw some feedback that said way to go, Randolph, being at the forefront of this."

The house is ranch-style, which Fano said is ideal for this kind of setup, but still had to be brought up to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by constructing a ramp from the driveway, widening hallways and taking out doors, and removing showers and vanities from the bathrooms because students will not have a need to stay overnight.

Inside the home, there is an open kitchen concept, a living room to help foster social skills, and a bedroom where the students can do things like fold clothes and make a bed.

"It enhances those skills that we all need to exercise, everything from ironing your clothes to work, cooking, cleaning, planning for events," Fano said.

Fano said Randolph High School previously had an apartment-style setting for students to gear up for their post-school lives, but now no other district in Morris County has a facility like this, and so far, it's gotten an overwhelmingly positive response.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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