Public or Private? Weigh the Options for Special Education Students

Which type of school will work best for your special needs child?


Published:

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For parents of children who learn differently, school choice can be a very personal decision. Since there are varying degrees of disabilities, there are also varying degrees of special education. Not all schools, public or private, are equipped to accommodate all levels of disabilities. Some students might need fewer resources while others require intense interventions. How do you know what your child needs?

 

Public Programs

Programs that serve at-risk behavioral, intellectual or physically disabled students are located in various public schools throughout the Triangle. Many of these schools offer self-contained classrooms that focus on a diverse population with varying academic levels, but are not available in every public school and typically have few students with similar physical and intellectual challenges. Educators focus on life skills and fundamental academic abilities.

“For regional programs, there are a variety of resources to meet the students’ needs,” says Sandy Chambers, principal of Brier Creek Elementary in Raleigh.

Students identified with an individual education plan gain access to these programs based on eligibility and program availability. Regarding placement, parents should speak with their child’s case manager.

The inclusion model facilitates a variety of instructional techniques for special education students who are mainstreamed into a regular education classroom. These might include, but are not limited to, small group instruction, modified assignments, structured objectives, assistive technology and a designated resource teacher. From a socialization standpoint, students are also able to participate with their grade-level peers during electives and events such as field trips and assemblies.

“Public schools do a great job of serving all students with special needs,” Chambers says. She recommends parents check out the programs to be sure they are a good fit for a particular type of student or learning disability.

 

Private Programs

First, parents should know there are many private schools — each with their own mission and philosophy. Equally important, parents should understand that private schools are not required to teach the same lessons as public schools.

“Each nonpublic school determines their own curriculum,” says Chris Mears, public information officer at the North Carolina Department of Administration.

If a parent is interested in a private school, they can check the grade-level curriculum and standardized testing requirements at that particular facility. Because the classrooms typically have fewer students, private school teachers can focus on individual student needs and incorporate a variety of teaching methods to reach all children.

“The lessons are a good fit for academic ability, as well as social and emotional levels,” says Tiffany Gregory, dean of admissions at The Fletcher Academy. “They are tailored to the child and are student-centered.”

The Hill Center in Durham offers the best of both worlds. Mornings are dedicated to the students’ academic challenges. In the afternoon, students transfer back to their regular school (public or private) for additional afternoon instruction. The school also provides access to assistive technology.

“We serve as an intervention arm and the organization of the class is built to address the learning differences,” says Bryan Brander, head of the school.

Since the classes have just a few students, the goals and accommodations are personalized to each student’s specific needs.

“Private schools have some of the same accommodations as public schools,” says Augusta C. of Raleigh, who has had children in both public and private schools. “But they might be administered differently because of the smaller classroom size.”

Fewer students in a class enables teachers to address challenges throughout the school day.

“We educate our students using one-on-one and small group direct instruction teaching, as well as addressing skill acquisition in the natural teaching environment,” says Jill Lerner, director of Learn with the Best School in Cary.

 

Feasibility

While private schools do offer much lower student-to-teacher ratios, there is a price to pay for that benefit. Tuition and transportation may be a concern for many families. Some schools charge upwards of $20,000 per student per year, although many do offer payment plans, financial aid, disability grant funding and scholarships. Working parents concerned about transportation should check with the school before determining this to be a limiting factor.

Private schools may or may not have multidisciplinary teams available, but many understand the need for interventions and incorporate these disciplines into the regular school day.

For students who qualify, public schools provide related services and therapies for exceptional children to maximize growth during the learning process.

Parents of exceptional students should consider visiting both public and private schools in their area to learn about the resources available to them. The Fletcher Academy invites parents to observe classes in session to get an understanding of classroom expectations. Learn with the Best School offers a “trial” day for students who might be interested in attending.

Parents can also meet with administrators first to see if the school is the right fit. After all, parents know their child better than anyone and should trust their instincts, since the goal should be to find the school that best meets their student’s educational needs.

“Having a kid with a learning disability is really scary,” says Augusta C. says. “Concentrate on the school that can help your child now."

Visit these websites for more information on public or nonpublic school curriculum and policies pertaining to exceptional children.

Division of Non-Public Education: ncdnpe.org

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction: dpi.state.nc.us

 

C.C. Malloy is a writer and disability advocate. She lives in Greensboro with her family. Please visit her website, Bizigal's Exceptional Blooms.

 
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Calendar

May 2018

Run Club meets every Sunday at 8 a.m. in Midtown Raleigh or Wake Forest. Stroller friendly; children invited. 

Cost: $10/run or $100/annual pass

Where:
Optimist Park Community Center/Greenways
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Cost: $32 and up

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100 N. Green St.
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Telephone: 191-946-03355
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141 Park at North Hills St.
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141 Park at North Hills St.
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3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd
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Cost: Free

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480 Hillsboro St.
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Sponsor: Chatham Marketplace
Telephone: 919-542-2643
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Cost: Free

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950 Peterson St.
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Kings Dining & Entertainment
141 Park at North Hills St.
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Where:
Cary Senior Center
120 Maury O'Dell Place
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Cost: $3/person

Where:
Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
2900 Horse Shoe Farm Rd.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sponsor: Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
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Contact Name: Nikki Jones
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Cost: Event free; $3/person for featured exhibition

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11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Enjoy concerts, educational panels, limited merchandise and unique artwork at this Japanese animation and culture convention. Purchase tickets online.

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500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

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Historic Downtown Wilson
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Telephone: 1-708-271-3042
Contact Name: Jerome De Perlinghi
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Cost: Free for Arboretum Family members, $5.00 per child for nonmembers.

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Road
Campus Box 7212
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Cost: Free with admission

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10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Cost: Free

Where:
Kings Dining & Entertainment
141 Park at North Hills St.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Sponsor: Baptist Grove Church
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Contact Name: Cynthia Jacko
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Cost: Free

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Fleming Loop Park
2321 N. Main St.
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Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

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2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 191-946-03355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Cost: Free

Where:
Fleming Loop Park
2321 N. Main St.
Fuquay-Varina, NC  27526
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Downtown Wilson
210 Moss St.
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Telephone: 1-708-271-3042
Contact Name: Jerome De Perlinghi
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Cost: Free

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4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Age 6 & under free

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
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Cost: Free

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3200 Pleasant Union Church Rd.
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Eva Perry Regional Library
2100 Shepherd's Vineyard Dr.
Apex, NC  27502
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4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $20-$25.

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Telephone: 919-985-1865
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