New Kennedy Day School Space Opens
2012 Jan/Feb e-Newsletter» KDS Opens New Space
Kennedy Day School Opens New Space Improving the Quality of Education For Students with Special Needs
“Each Skill Acquired Opens Another Door for Our Students”
The wait is over for the students at the Kennedy Day School on site at Franciscan Hospital for Children, who have been watching construction on their newest school building for nearly two years from their playgrounds! Their first day back from winter break, they begin to explore the new 20,000 square feet of state-of-the-art learning space, but the best news is they have the same great faculty they know so well!
The school’s faculty includes special education teachers, teaching assistants, nurses, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, reading specialist, physical therapists, psychologists, recreation specialist, augmentative communication team, assistive technologist, curriculum specialist, music therapists, audiologist, adapted physical education teacher, family resource coordinator, feeding team, vocational specialist and teacher of the visually impaired. The space in the new building allows this highly-specialized and loved staff to better serve the nearly 80 students between the ages of 3 and 22 enrolled in this special education program, approved by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education.
Every day, students are greeted by staff at a new, light-filled entrance and hallway to the school, wide enough for students in wheelchairs to enter side-by-side. The new building has hallway handrails and unique flooring with colored markers to help students more successfully navigate their motorized wheelchairs and other mobility equipment in order to more independently arrive at their intended destinations. Color contrast features help students with visual impairments orient to environmental features. Staff members are very excited about the first stop each morning – cubbies for students’ personal belongings are built-in and offer expanded accessible space. Every facet is thoughtfully designed for students.
With an average of 6 students per classroom, the new building space accommodates a broad variety of equipment designed to support the unique needs of the individual, including standing, walking and positioning aids, specialized seating systems, respiratory aids, augmentative communication systems, hearing and vision aids, adapted computer technology. Every classroom is equipped with motion sensing lights that automatically turn on/off upon entrance and exit.
The learning environment is enhanced with 10 large, mobile, height adjustable, SMART Board systems, providing interactive technology-based whiteboards that bring curriculum resources alive in the classroom. “Our students have so much more educational material accessible to them, using new computers and interactive whiteboards.
We are thrilled with the transformation!” declares Pat Donovan, Assistive Technology Specialist. Throughout the building there are anti-glare shades to support the visual environment and FM systems to aid students with hearing impairments.
Intercoms link every classroom and bathroom to healthcare rooms and service providers in order to most effectively address the essential needs of medically fragile students. State-of-the-art restrooms are equipped with overhead power lifts to assist in transfers, when needed, for positioning and personal care. Many details of the new space make it easier for faculty members to empower students so they may enjoy success in a diverse and stimulating school setting.
“Each skill acquired opens another door for our students, and space is so important for learning,” notes Jonathan Parkhurst, Director of Educational Admissions. “The children need a lot of support from staff, even with their equipment designed to keep them mobile and safe. Our new classrooms can accommodate wheelchairs, standing tables, mats, and bean bags to assist them throughout the day, so they can focus on all we are giving the kids to explore.”
In addition to a supplemental health room and enlarged classrooms, the new school building features specialty skill areas. The new Sensory-Motor room includes a ceiling track designed to help students experience near-independent walking mobility. The Vocational Skills area offers a broad variety of skill development stations that provide students with the opportunity to appreciate their own abilities to make a productive and positive difference in the lives of others. The Culinary Arts room features accessible work spaces, including a sink and cook-top that adjust in height at the push of a button. Adaptive appliances enable students to prepare healthy dishes by reading and following multiple-step recipes with (hopefully) carefully measured ingredients so they may share the delicious products of their labor with friends. In fact, in the nearby Psychology Office, students engage in an array of activities to help them learn more about themselves and what it means to be a friend.
Kennedy Day School’s new Assistive Technology Center provides students with the tools and expertise to use technology for increased academic productivity, more independent access to educational materials, enhanced communication and greater environmental control. Technology is also present among other more traditional learning materials in the students’ Reading Skills Center, which focuses on the power of words and the joy of literature. The Vision Center engages students in activities that promote use of vision and multi-sensory strategies to acquire and utilize more information within their environment. The new Curriculum Center offers special educators mechanisms to adapt and customize learning materials to more specifically address the unique needs of each learner.
At the end of every school day, when staff members guide students to the transportation that will bring them home, they know students have learned something new and continue to grow. Today, staff members are especially proud to have given the children new experiences they could not have provided in the old school building. Students now have access to learn even more new skills and see the world, with greater ease and a new sense of independence. The opening of the new building marks completion of the first of two phases of the project. The original school space will be renovated and completed by late 2012 and will include classrooms, music therapy room, student library, dining room, student communication center, health room, family conference room and support service offices. Once completed, the new building and renovated space will bring more opportunities for innovative special education practice to all of the wonderful students of the Kennedy Day School.
To arrange a visit and tour KDS, call Bonnie Paulino at 617-254-3800 x6160.
Written By Kathleen BuckleyJanuary 2012