Holmstead School was founded in 1970 as a day school and group home in Ridgewood. It’s now home to more than 60 students in grades 8-12, ages 13 to 18, who have high intellectual abilities but have been unable to achieve success in a traditional school setting.
“The thing that attracts parents is that we follow the state curriculum,” says Dr. Steve Kuwent, director of the school. “Parents don’t want their children to fall behind even if they’re struggling socially and emotionally.”
At Holmstead, students can keep up the academic rigor while taking advantage of small classes and intense therapeutic services. “That’s one of the things that sets us apart, we are an all-day academic program. Some of our students are in honors classes, some are in AP classes and a vast majority are college bound,” says Kuwent.
Leveraging Technology to Meet Student Needs
During the coronavirus pandemic, the school pivoted to online instruction, making sure students could still meet with their teachers at regularly-scheduled times.
“Some of the therapists did group therapy on Zoom, the kids enjoyed that,” says Kuwent. “Some students don’t function well with math online, so we sent home workbooks. It was about reaching out on an individual basis.”
Looking at the 2020-2021 school year, Holmstead has kept up with the latest technology.
“We’re using Realtime, a student management and IEP development system,” says Kuwent. “This gives parents a better handle on the day-to-day of what’s going on at school.” Students can also use the system to check on assignments and grades.
Proven Therapeutic Options
Students at Holmstead come from 39 districts across New Jersey. The school has kept up with the demands that came during COVID, hiring an additional therapist to meet students’ needs.
“We have four licensed clinical social workers and we just hired a doctoral level school psychologist,” says Kuwent, who is also a licensed psychologist.
Under his new leadership, the school has introduced new therapy options including Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). There are also behavioral intervention plans for students that benefit from them.
“This was where I learned that a school could become a home,” says Rebecca, senior class co-president. “I’m honestly mad at this school for being as wonderful as it is because now leaving is a challenge that I do not want to accept.”
14 Hope St., Ridgewood