Special Education

Inside a District-Charter School Partnership for Students With Disabilities

By Arianna Prothero — November 30, 2015 1 min read

Although districts and charter schools are more often cast more as adversaries than collaborators, there are a few outposts challenging that dynamic.

One of them is Denver. As I’ve recently written for Education Week, since 2010, the Denver district has been partnering with local charter schools to serve students with severe disabilities.

Denver Public Schools has been helping—both financially and logistically—high-performing charter schools open and run specialized centers for students with autism, Down Syndrome, and cerebral palsy, among many other diagnoses.

Charters often struggle to serve such populations because they lack the scale and resources of a school district.

Among the charter schools to open a district-sponsored special education center program is STRIVE Prep-Federal. The school serves grades 6-8 and belongs to a small local network of charter schools.

Scroll through the pictures below to see what the inside of this unique district-charter partnership looks like:

Paraprofessional Ivana Jakovljevic, helps 8th grader Cristina Amaya navigate the halls at STRIVE Prep-Federal. Students in the center program spend parts of their school days in general education classes, such as P.E., art, and science.

Special education teacher Wendi Sussman kneels to speak with 8th grade student Pablito Montoya. Sussman teaches the class in the center program with the help of three paraprofessionals. Like many “college-prep” charter schools, Sussman’s classroom is named after her alma matter: the University of Wisconsin.

Victor Jarron, an 8th grade student with a visual impairment, uses his specially assigned and formatted iPad during class in the multi-intensive needs center. Victor is one of 13 students in the program at STRIVE Prep-Federal.

Saddey Pritekel, an 8th grader, is overcome with a case of the giggles during a role-playing life skills lesson. To read more about STRIVE Prep-Federal’s partnership with Denver Public Schools, click here for the full article.

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Photos by Nathan W. Armes for Education Week

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.