Some Rhode Island public and private schools are fully inclusive for those with and without special needs, but the private Grace School, a division of Providence-based nonprofit Meeting Street, provides inclusion in a way even the state considers “unique.”
“The Meeting Street model for the Grace School, which includes students with severe disabilities supported by funds from their school districts as well as [nonspecial needs] students paying tuition to attend, is apparently unique in Rhode Island,” said Elliot Krieger, spokesman for the R.I. Department of Education. “It’s a creative model of service that can meet the educational needs of a very diverse group of students.”
Special-needs students are not segregated from their more typical peers, says Margaret Knowlton, Meeting Street’s head of school for both the inclusive Grace School and the Carter School, which focuses on students in grades 6 through 12 with pronounced special needs. The possible exception, she said, is when students get attention for a particular therapy goal that doesn’t lend itself to being worked on in the classroom.
“In the Grace School, for students with and without disabilities we think they can learn with and from each other, [so] they’re not ever segregated,” Knowlton said. “All their content and curriculum is taught in the same classroom and all of their special subjects – art, library, music – are all done together. So they’re with each other all day.”
At the Grace School, this academic year’s crop of 91 students is comprised of 31 students with some range of special needs for which an IEP (individualized education program) is necessary, and 60 “typical” kids without those needs, who nonetheless benefit from teaching tailored to them individually, said Knowlton and Amanda McMullen, Meeting Street chief operating officer.