Educating Students In-House

The Granville Central School District has made the decision to begin a new program for autistic students in-house. This decision was made after careful thought, consideration, and an exploration of opportunities for students in the region, and whether the district was prepared to offer a comprehensive classroom setting to meet their needs.

“I firmly believe that we have the foundation in place and exceptional staff members in our district that can make this program successful for students with unique needs,” said Superintendent Thomas McGurl. “Ann Marie Clark has served as our Director of Pupil Personnel for the past five years, and under her guidance, we can give our students the best educational experience possible as they embark on their educational journeys.”

Granville created this new class specially for students diagnosed with autism. Mrs. Clark spearheaded the project, which is designed similarly to the BOCES Educating Autistic and Related Disorders Students program, also known as BEARS. To help make the program sustainable, the district also brought on board a new Special Education teacher and a new teacher’s aide who is assigned to the class.

“We are confident that the students will have a consistent experience here and will make progress academically, socially, and emotionally,” said Mr. McGurl.

“It’s important for our students to be able to get the education and services they need within our district,” said Mrs. Clark. “It helps our students build a routine and have a structure they can depend on. It also gives them the opportunity to socialize with students and adults they interact with in school beyond the regular school day.”

Like BOCES BEARS, the district’s program offers a customized educational environment. Students are provided routine and structure in their curriculum. That includes daily lessons like news you can use, symbol stix, and unique learning activities. The Granville program is a 6:1:1 class, or six students to one teacher and one teacher’s aide, whereas the BOCES BEARS program is 12 students to one teacher and four teacher aides. 

“These classes require a bit more hands-on education, so we feel it’s important to provide more attention to individual needs that may pop up throughout the school day,” said Mrs. Clark. “We want to be proactive instead of reactive.”

The district’s goal for creating this program for students with autism was to keep students in-house rather than transporting them to other districts. For instance, in the past, some Granville students with autism attended school in a BOCES BEARS classroom that was located in the Fort Ann Central School District. 

By creating a program in Granville, these students can remain in their home school and interact with their peers without having a long bus ride. Bringing the program under the Granville Central School District umbrella will also help the students socialize more, which is part of the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) to which schools aspire.

“Our class currently has three students enrolled, but we’re expecting it to grow in number in the near future,” said Mrs. Clark. “We’re prepared to welcome more students and help as many students as we need to.”

Staff involved in the program will take part in a virtual conference through the TEACCH Autism Program. Run by the University of North Carolina, TEACCH offers educators training and research in how to meet the needs of children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASM). The conference will provide staff with specialized training in areas like material structure, educational flexibility, and assessment standards. The conference, which will span three days, will help the program grow and incorporate new classroom dynamics to better help the students.

“This is the first year for our program, and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to provide the best learning and social environment for our students,” said Mrs. Clark, who said that year one of the program is an overwhelming success.

“I’m really proud of the work we’re doing in the classroom, and extremely appreciative of our district leaders who helped make this class a reality. I’m excited about what the future holds for us.”