RPS proposes charter school for students with intellectual disab - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

RPS proposes charter school for students with intellectual disabilities

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

Richmond Public School leaders unveiled their plans Monday night for a charter school aimed at helping teens with intellectual disabilities.

The Richmond Career Education and Employment Academy would be located in George Wythe High School in south Richmond.

Unemployment rates for students with cognitive disabilities  after high school graduation are at about 65 percent nationally. The proposed Richmond Career Education and Employment Academy hopes to change that.     

"The goal is to make sure that every child, when they leave RPS, is career ready," said Michelle Boyd, Director of Exceptional Education and Student Services at Richmond Public Schools.

A $1.5 million state grant would fund the school.

"I think (my son) will do better around students like himself," said Timika Burnette, who has a 16-year-old son with Asperger Syndrome.

Burnette says her son's high school does as much as it can to teach students with disabilities, with the resources available. However, she believes more help is needed to serve this population.

"It's not enough. There are too many children with other types of disabilities blending," continued Burnette about why special learning classrooms can be challenging environments.

Administrators say students at the school will also get real-world experience. That means forgoing paper and pens in a classroom setting at times and getting hands-on training.

"It's going to focus on vocational training. It's going to focus on self advocacy, self determination, self help skills, everything a youngster would need to be independent, after he exits high school," described Boyd.

However, the charter school would only serve ten students in its first year. The ultimate goal is to teach 40 students, ages 14 to 21 years old. The number may not seem so big, compared to the approximate 400 kids in the Richmond Public School system who could qualify for this kind of program. Regardless, school administrators and parents agree  the charter school is a move in a positive direction.

Students would have to be accepted into the charter school, which could open next year if the Richmond School Board approves it.

There will be another community meeting Tuesday night, at John Marshall High School from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m..

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