1. Private School
I loved the private school! I have nothing bad to say about it. The only downside would be the logistics because it's not at all close to where we live. And it's $8.5k a year. And it only goes up to kindergarten so we'd be back to square one next year.
2. Charter School
I was overall simply unimpressed. There was nothing overtly bad about it. But nothing wow'd me. I felt like the principal was really skeptical that it could work for Lauren. The building itself seemed dingy. And the one interaction between a teacher and I student I observed was less than friendly. There were some kids inside that didn't "earn" the recess time, and that's who I observed. It's not for us.
3. Public School
I was pleasantly surprised! I went into the meeting thinking I'd already know what they'd say and that I knew I didn't want it for Lauren. I was wrong. They presented 3 options. 1. Young Fives (not kindergarten curriculum, not special ed supported, and half day). 2. Gen ed (could include resource room time, speech therapy, and occupational therapy per IEP goals) 3. Cross Cat/Center program. The center program fully follows the kindergarten curriculum and common core standards. The ratio is smaller 3-4 adults per maximum 15 students. The teacher then has the ability to work with kids 1:1 in reading and math. For handwriting, science, social studies,etc there is 2-3 adults to circulate the room and help as required. They "scaffold" the material to teach it several times and in several different ways. There's a speech therapist in the classroom for the majority of the day.
We're familiar with gen ed because Ryan just did gen ed K last year. It's a lot faster paced with a much larger teacher ratio 1-2 adults to 26ish kids.
This was presented as either/or.
I asked about doing part of the day in center and part of the day in gen-ed. I actually really liked the answer! They said they do have some kids who do part day gen and and part day special ed. They said they have a couple kids who do about 1/2 hour in gen ed and the rest in special ed. But I spoke with a center teacher after the meeting and she currently has a student with Down syndrome in her class who does about an hour of gen ed plus specials with gen ed, the rest in the center program. I LOVE this idea. She said the parents went in asking for full day gen ed. I'm thinking they probably knew they wouldn't get that and "settled" for what they actually wanted. Smart parents!
I asked about the difference between the CI (cognitive impairment) and Cross Cat/Center program. Basically you have to qualify for CI, which is for kids with moderate-severe cognitive impairments. We were told last year that Lauren would likely not qualify and this would not be presented as an option to us.
I expressed to Lauren's speech therapist at the meeting that my main concern is Lauren having peer models. I said that I don't think gen-ed only is the right choice for her (speech therapist agreed), but I also don't think she will have enough peer models verbally in the Center program (speech therapist also agreed and said that socially, Lauren is more of a peer model). So I'm thinking we may not be getting as much push back as I was expecting when I ask for gen ed time.
I asked about gen ed plus resource room as an option. They said that while this is an option, there could come a time that so much resource room support is needed that it's practically a self contained classroom. I could see this happening with Lauren. Academically she is nowhere near a typical gen ed kindergartener. While we're expecting that Lauren's cognitive impairment is mild, she is still cognitively impaired. I can't ignore that.
I also asked about plans to get the gen ed kids and center kids together. Currently at one of the schools in our district there is a buddy program in place. I only learned about this at the district meetings I went to when they were deciding where to move the special ed programs (two schools closed and programs were shifted around. The special ed program was moved from two schools to do different schools). I heard great feedback from 2 gen ed kids who really loved having a "center buddy". The district coordinator said they are actively working on ways to implement that at the new schools in the fall.
I really liked what they said about placement. They said that while the team (current teacher, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and district special ed coordinator) will make a strong recommendation, placement is ultimately up to the parents. This is true based on IDEA law and I love that they were very up front with this.
Greg and I both really liked the private school option. But logistically and geographically, it's not close to home. And we'd be back at square one for first grade. So we're thinking that if the district is willing to meet us halfway and give us minimally an hour plus specials of gen ed time, we'll choose our home district.
Overall, I really am surprised at our current decision! I did not expect to at all like what the district had to say. But I was very impressed! I have a meeting early next month with the team to discuss cognitive testing, then the IEP will be hammered out and decided upon. Then we can make our final decision.