MIDLAND PARK — Before the learning can begin, students at Paradigm Therapeutic Day School gather for 20 to 25 minutes and participate in a "mindful morning" exercise that can better prepare them for the day.

Group sessions begin and end each day at the newly-opened private school that exists only to handle students with emotional and behavioral issues a typical school isn't equipped to tackle.

"Schools are recognizing that they have to address the deeper mental health issues because the ability for students to perform is being compromised as a result," said Jeffrey Kahn, the school's principal and executive director.

The 21,000-square-foot school opened its doors on September 5 with 12 students — all referred by their local school district as in need of a more emotionally supportive environment.

To keep the operation "small, therapeutic, intimate and responsive," Kahn said, the Bergen County school will only handle a max of 40 to 45 students at one time.

The students, aged 12 to 21, receive the same education and credits they would elsewhere, Kahn said.

"We don't issue a diploma here, by design," he said.

Because a student's enrollment is the product of a public school district's referral, the district handles the bill for tuition and transportation (each student is transported by bus to Paradigm).

Kahn said the school was established in response to a growing need within the education community to respond to an alarming rise in students needing these supports.

Paradigm is an extension of CarePlus NJ's Division of School-Based Programs, which has spread to dozens of districts throughout North Jersey.