View Full Version : All NYC Ideal School of Manhattan, school for special-needs students, expands

11-26-2012, 10:42 AM
From DNAinfo.com (http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121126/upper-west-side/inclusive-uws-school-for-special-needs-typical-learners-expands) by Emily Frost:

The Ideal School of Manhattan, which began in 2006 as an experiment in fully integrating special-needs students with typical learners, is expanding rapidly thanks to parents and educators who hope to create a new model for teaching students of all abilities.

Students recently moved from their original West 76th Street location to a six-floor building twice as large on West 91st Street at West End Avenue. The Head of School, Angela Bergeson, said she thinks they'll "outgrow [the new] space more quickly than we thought" as it transitions from K-5 to K-8.

The vision for the school stemmed from the challenges a group of New York City moms with special-needs students faced while looking for kindergartens.

Michelle Smith and Audra Zuckerman said they had no trouble getting their sons, both of whom have Down syndrome, into preschool. But when it came time for elementary school, Zuckerman said some public schools stated bluntly, "Your child is not welcome here."

Other schools were gentler, but admitted essentially, "'Your child can come here, but there are 35 kids in a classroom, and it's not going to be a great situation,'" Zuckerman recounted.

Neither the reception nor the options were much better in the private-school world, the mothers found.

Rather than despair or move out of the city, as other parents with special-needs children in their circle were doing, Smith and Zuckerman convened a group of educators to discuss creating an inclusive school that would house both typical learners and those with special needs.

The idea took a lot of fundraising and hard work, according to its founders. "Inclusion," Bergeson said, "is a hard sell and it's very expensive."

Tuition costs $55,000 a year for special-needs students and $34,000 for typical learners.

In 2006, The Ideal School welcomed its inaugural class of 20 students. It now has 105 students, with around 43 percent receiving tuition assistance.

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