In a previous post I mentioned we were considering options for where Kayla will attend 6th grade. There aren't a whole lot of options.
1. She would go to the school she is zoned for.
2. We could possibly look at another middle school in our district; however, given the statistics of how students with intellectual disabilities are educated here I don't put much hope that another middle school would offer a more inclusive environment. They just might not be washing the football team's uniforms.
3. Home school. This actually kind of terrifies me. I don't have confidence in my ability of being able to home school successfully. I'm afraid I wouldn't be organized or disciplined enough. It's overwhelming to think of being totally responsible for her education; I don't even know where to start with lesson planning and how to get through the plethora of curriculums out there. I think I would have a hard time getting Kayla on board with this idea. She likes school; she is constantly asking if there is 'school tomorrow?' I don't think she would like staying at home.
4. On-line school. While I wouldn't be the one totally responsible for her education and curriculum see above. She would still be at home and the majority of instruction would be over the computer. Not sure that is ideal either.
5. Private school. This is the option we are seriously considering right now. There are scholarships for students with disabilities to attend a participating private school. One of these schools is about 15 minutes from our house - and her best friend attends this school. This school has an Inclusive Education Program. Kayla would be in the resource room for 40 min of reading and 40 min of math. 80 min out of her day - that's it! The rest of the school day she would be with her peers.
As with every decision there are pros and cons and this is true of the private school as well.
- I have always firmly believed that Kayla would go to her neighborhood school with the kids on our street and in some ways it hurts my heart that if we make this decision she won't be at her neighborhood school. (But then again, even if she were at her neighborhood school she probably wouldn't be spending much time with the kids on our street, or typical peers in general, given the schedule the school has proposed.)
- I would have to drive her to school. I know this is a very small "con" and if I'm making a decision on which school is better for Kayla I'm certainly not going to let a 15-20 min commute dictate that decision. The convenience of having the bus pick her up would be something I would miss though! (But then I ask myself - would I even put her on the [regular] middle school bus anyway? The thought frightens me a bit as I've seen the kids on that bus and I've heard the way they talk on that bus. I would be concerned about bullying, but I could ask the kids on our street to watch out for her. If I drove her to the public school it would only be about a 2 minute drive.)
- Uniforms! Again, another 'small' con but it's there. School uniforms can get expensive and Kayla has a closet full of skirts and dresses that she loves to wear. On the 'pro' side it should make getting dressed for school go smoothly because she wouldn't have a choice of what to wear ...and she can always wear her own clothes once she gets home from school.
- The classrooms and school itself are much smaller in size even from the elementary school she just attended.
- My biggest 'con' would be if she goes to this private K-8 school in a much smaller environment how would high school look? I'm already thinking of high school because she would only be in this middle school for 3 years. Would I take her from that small environment to the public high school? That transition seems like it would be overwhelming. Being in the public middle school seems like it would give her more of a smooth transition to high school.
- What do I do about high school? The high school that this private school 'feeds' in to is in another town and county/school district all together. It is about an hour away. I don't think I could make that commute. So she would go to this middle school for 3 years and then all the students branch off to different high schools? (If they go to the public schools for high school they wouldn't all be zoned for the same high school). Thinking about high school is already stressing me out too!
- When I observed at this school 2 years ago when Kayla was in 3rd grade there was one student with Down syndrome. There are now about 7 students with Down syndrome there - they must be doing something right if parents of kids with Down syndrome are enrolling at this school, right?!
Right now our decision is hinging on waiting for word of this scholarship to see how much she would be awarded. We thought we would have heard by now, but we haven't. School is only 3 weeks away (how did that happen!?) and "Facts and Fees" for the public school is next week. I hope we hear something this week on the scholarship so we can move forward one way or the other with our decision. If we end up at the school she is zoned for then we need to prepare for another IEP meeting since we don't agree with the placement from the last meeting.
That's where we stand right now ... just waiting, waiting, waiting.