Building a bridge of understanding

Schonowe Preschool celebrates 25 years of teaching kids of all abilities

Schonowe Preschool celebrated its 25th anniversary on Tuesday, June 7, with a variety of fun activities for children attending the school, which also offers an educationally based nursery school program and daycare for those with special needs and typically developing children. The classes at the nonprofit charter school are integrated, allowing children to have an enriching social experience with peers of all abilities.

Melissa Spring, of Scotia, said she decided to send her twin children to the school because her disabled son and typically developing daughter could be in the same class.

I wanted her to be surrounded by kids that have a variety of needs and learn compassion, understanding and how to be a helpful classmate, said Spring. "This is the only place I saw that had true integration. A lot of places they could be together for a part of the day, but not the whole class time. It was really the only place that I had found that that would happen."

Spring said that environment has helped her children gain a valuable experience.

"My children have grown tremendously here. They have made tons of friends, and they are so happy here," said Spring. "The staff loves them. Everyone in the school knows them, even if they don't work in their classroom. It is a really warm environment."

Spring said the curriculum is similar to other preschools, which is something she liked about the school.

Lori Blatt, coordinator of admissions at Schonowe, said the fully integrated classrooms have made it more challenging, but children being able to learn from one another provides a rewarding experience.

Schonowe Director John McQueen said that in the '90s, the state mandated schools to move toward an inclusionary program. The school's program has no segregated classes.

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