Centers Welcoming Students Back to School

Centers Welcoming Students Back to School

Aug. 22, 2002

The elementary students attending the Laurel Ridge Center this year need to be ready to read — a lot.

"We are focusing on reading this year," said principal Susan Kernan. "We are trying to improve our reading level, especially in the upper grades."

To be able to meet that goal, Kernan hopes to have a new reading teacher hired by the time the doors open Sept. 3. In addition, the center will have one other new teacher to help welcome the students.

All Fairfax County Public Schools' special-education schools and centers are gearing up for the first day of school. The school system has 23 special-education schools and centers across the county. Most of the centers are co-located in other schools, but with their own budgets.

Special-education services are provided to children with disabilities between the ages of 2 and 22 either at one of the centers, through home services or by referral to a private school when it is determined the school system can not met the child's needs. The services are offered to children who have autism, developmental delay, emotional disabilities, hearing impairment, mental retardation, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairments, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairment, serve disability, traumatic brain injury and visual impairment.

THE LAUREL RIDGE CENTER is co-located with Laurel Ridge Elementary in Fairfax. As such, the two share a PTA and other things such as a cafeteria and gymnasium.

It's not uncommon for the two to share students as well. "Our students go back and forth between the center and general education," Kernan said. "Our kids just need support to progress. They need a smaller setting."

The center is staffed for 50 students, but the enrollment fluctuates throughout the school year. The student-to-teacher ratio is state-mandated to be no more than 10-to-1.

Besides focusing on reading, the center will continue to stress Character Education, a staple throughout the Robinson pyramid.

The Laurel Ridge Center will be holding an open house Thursday, Aug. 29 at 11:30 a.m. In addition, the back-to-school night is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.

NORTH SPRINGFIELD CENTER is also co-located, sharing facilities with North Springfield Elementary School in Springfield. The two share the common spaces such as the library, cafeteria, gymnasium and playground and also go on field trips together whenever possible. The center students, however, need small self-contained classes.

"We have the same program of studies and Standards of Learning as everyone else," said principal Judy Owens. "These kids really need this level of service. As the children can handle it, we mainstream them."

The center has a capacity of 50 and is staffed with five teachers and five instructional assistants. Owens will be starting off the school year with about 31 students and three teachers, all new. In addition, the school has an art and a music therapist, both of which help the students, all of which have emotional disabilities, better express their feelings.

"We typically start out with less students and grow throughout the year," Owens said. "It's a very, very tough job for teachers. It's very draining. I'm starting out with a brand new staff."

The center will be holding its back-to-school night Thursday, Sept. 12, for grades kindergarten through fifth, beginning at 7 p.m.

THE OLDE CREEK CENTER also caters to elementary-school children with emotional disabilities. The center, which is co-located with Olde Creek Elementary in Fairfax, has five classrooms, each staffed with a teacher and instructional assistant. There are also two behavioral specialists, a full-time psychologist and social worker.

The center will be holding its back-to-school night Monday, Sept. 9 beginning at 7 p.m.

"WE TRY TO operate as much as possible as one school," said Saratoga Center principal, Stan Boren, about the center being co-located with Saratoga Elementary in Springfield. "We are as integrated as much as possible."

The students at the center share common areas such as the library, gymnasium and cafeteria and take general education classes whenever possible. The students, mostly those with emotional disabilities, come from about 25 different elementary schools.

Boren is expecting about 50 students to start the school year and has hired two new teachers. He anticipates hiring two more instructional assistants as well.

The center will be having an Open House Thursday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. and a back-to-school night Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.

ABOUT 100 STUDENTS are expected at the Key Center, which is co-located with Key Middle School in Springfield. Even though the two share the same facility, the only thing the they share is a program called Key to Key, in which middle-school students work with the center students.

The Key Center occupies its own wing at the middle school complete with a separate gymnasium and cafeteria and about 15 classrooms. Most of the students have several handicaps, so there is a full-time nurse on staff.

The back-to-school night is Thursday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.

THE BURKE CENTER primarily serves middle-school students with emotional disabilities. Unlike most centers, the Burke Center is not co-located with another school and it tends to attract students from all over the county.

"Our population ranges around 60 to 70 students," said principal Susan Knecht.

In addition, the center has a intervention on suspension program for general education students, said Knecht.

The students will have to get used to some new faces this year. The center has two new interns, a new teaching assistant and a new counselor. The focus for the year will be Character Education and reading.

"We're caught up in the general challenge of meeting the educational benchmarks," Knecht said.

Back-to-school night is scheduled for Thursday, Set. 26 at 7 p.m.

Also having back-to-school night is the Woodson Center, co-located with Woodson High in Fairfax, is slated for Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.