As an educational consultant and special needs advocate, I periodically visit special needs schools to tour in person because I only recommend schools to my clients that I have personally visited and vetted. This blog post series highlights the top special needs schools in the United States I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and gives an inside look at what makes them so great.
Teaneck, New Jersey
About the School
The Community School, Lower School consists of children grades Kindergarten through the Eighth (8th) grade. The school teaches their students how to learn with learning disabilities and attention issues which in turn encourages independence and confidence.
Children with learning disabilities and attention issues.
The Community School offers a departmentalized program. The students do not stay in one room all day, but they do stay with the same group all day. The school day is from 8:20 AM to 2:50 PM. Students start the day in homeroom for 15 minutes where they get organized for the day. The students have eight (8) forty (40) minute periods within the school day plus a forty (40) minute lunch. The school day ends with a 15 minute block in homeroom where students organize their materials in preparation to go home.
Program Description - Group 1 (Grades 2, 3, and 4)
- 15 periods per week of ELA - Students are grouped according to their instructional level. The ELA programs are based on multi sensory methods. Students that require more intensive reading instruction are offered the Wilson Reading System. This system is taught by certified Wilson instructors either in individual or small group settings. Vocabulary, spelling, punctuation and learning to write expanded sentences, paragraphs and book reports are taught using specialized methods, strategies and techniques. This is performed in the Language Arts classes. Assistive technology, including the Kurzweil program is offered as part of the program.
- 5 periods per week of Math - Math is taught in small groups according to level, instructional needs and learning style. The math program is based on a multi-sensory approach using manipulatives, if appropriate. Problem solving and the language upon which math concepts and processes are based are introduced, defined and reviewed frequently along with reinforcement. Technology and computer programs are included in the program when appropriate.
- 3 periods per week of Social Studies - Grade appropriate Social Studies is taught in a group. Students develop skills in note taking and research when appropriate.
- 3 periods per week of Science - Science is a hands on subject, therefore students work on projects and experiments on grade appropriate topics.
- 1 period per week - Class Meeting - Social Skills/Problem Solving are taught by the school counselor and/or certified teacher
- 5 periods per week of Physical Education
- 1 period per week of I.C.E. (Innovative Challenging Experiences) - this class focuses on balance, coordination and fitness. These techniques are taught by the Physical Education staff
- 1 period per week of visual motor - this includes practice with graphomotor and fine motor skills
- 1 Health class per week
- 1 Technology class per week - this class includes keyboarding skills and practice activities for word processing , PowerPoint presentations, graphic arts, multimedia, internet research and more
- 2 Art classes per week
Program Description - Group 2, 3 and 4 (Grades 5, 6, 7 and 8)
- 15 periods per week of ELA - Same as Group 1
- 5 periods per week of Math - Same as Group 1
- 5 periods per week of Social Studies - Same as Group 1. Additionally, students also learn to develop/strengthen skills in note taking, test preparation and research, when appropriate
- 3 periods per week of Science - Same as Group 1
- 1 period per week - Class Meeting - Same as Group 1
- 5 periods per week of Physical Education
- 1 period per week of I.C.E. (Innovative Challenging Experiences) - Same as Group 1
- 1 Health Class per week
- 1 Technology class per week - Same as Group 1
- Art classes - will vary
- 1 Art class per week (groups 3 and 4)
- 2 Art classes per week (group 2)
- 2 periods per week of homeroom (groups 3 and 4)
- 1 period per week of homeroom (group 2)
Assistive Technology, Smart Boards and individualized techniques and strategies are used throughout the curriculum as needed. The Community School also offers Speech and Language Therapy as mandated on your child’s IEP.
My meeting and tour was with Donna LaTour (Admissions - Lower School). The children seemed happy within the classroom and the learning was a no pressure and a non-competitive environment. The school was small enough to feel homey yet large enough to give the feeling of a public school building. Transitioning was smooth and event free as the children knew what they needed to do and how to reach their goal. The environment was very calm and quiet which assists with the learning process and therefore does not provide any distractions.
In addition to The Community School, there is the Community High School which houses grades 9-12. In 2002, the Kaplen Family Field of Dreams. was added. It is a recreational complex adjacent to the lower school and across from the high school. The Field of Dreams is used for it’s baseball and soccer fields, jogging and walking track, fitness areas and stations, playground, tree and garden compounds, sitting areas, game tables, sculpture gardens, outdoor classrooms and picnic tables. This area is used for the school’s physical education program, athletic programs, recreational groups, intramural athletics as well as for school events such as Field Day, assemblies, barbecues, carnivals and graduation.
I want to thank Donna LaTour for taking the time in order to show me around The Community School. If you think that The Community School would be a good fit for your child, please feel free to contact them. You can schedule a tour and speak with Donna directly.