Special Education Centers Prepare for Sept. 3

Special Education Centers Prepare for Sept. 3

Aug. 22, 2002

At times, for a visitor to the Brookfield Center, identifying a student of the center from a general education student can be tough.

Often the students attending the center, which caters to children with emotional disabilities, float back and forth between the center and Brookfield Elementary School. Both facilities are co-located in Chantilly.

"The environment is an accepting one. There is no child that comes to the center that doesn't have an educational experience in a general education class," said Patricia Perry, principal of Brookfield Center. "If they need to be in a small group setting, a class of 10 or less, I can do that [at the center]. We also have the luxury to have them in a larger group setting [at the elementary school] when they can handle it. The students can go back and forth. I also have general education students use our facilities."

Across Fairfax County, the special-education schools and centers are gearing up for the first day of school Sept. 3. For Perry, that means about 50 elementary-school-level students will be coming through the center's doors.

The school system has 23 special-education schools and centers across the county. Most of the centers are co-located in other schools, however, they have 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.

BROOKFIELD CENTER shares a PTA, parent newsletter, the gymnasium, cafeteria, field trips and other activities with its counterpart.

It follows the county schools calendar and curriculum. However, it is staffed at a student-to-teacher ratio of 10-1, and it also has a staff social worker and psychologist.

The school is currently staffed for a capacity of 50 students, but Perry has seen her enrollment grow to as many as 70 to 75 students during the school year.

"This is the smallest number I have ever opened with," Perry said. "I often pick up more students after school starts. We give the students the chance to give it their best shot at their base school first." Perry said 14 elementary schools in the western part of the county feed into the Brookfield Center.

The center does not have any new programs on tap for this year, but Perry said the goal is it increase reading and writing skills among the students. To that end, she has several motivational programs such as read-a-thons and requiring the students to e-mail in some assignments to encourage writing.

The center will be sharing its Back-to-School Night with the elementary school. Actually, the Back-to-School Night has been divided, with grades four through six meeting Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m., and grades one through three on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. The kindergarten classes will also be split, as yet to be determined how, between those two days.

SANDY ROBECK, principal at Chantilly Center, will have two new teachers this year when the high-school-level students return.

Like Brookfield, the Chantilly Center is co-located with Chantilly High School, which allows the students to be mainstreamed whenever possible. It also means the center shares a PTSA, and the students have the ability to take part in the extracurricular activities offered by the high school.

"We enjoy a good working relationship with Chantilly High," Robeck said.

The center also caters to students with emotional disabilities who live in the western part of the county. Robeck said he expects about 75 students to start the school year and has gone as high as 120.

Back-to-School Night for both the center and high school, grades nine through 12, is Wednesday, Sept. 18, beginning at 6:30 p.m.