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PROFILE: Rock Hill focused on providing special ed

ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP — Amelia Boyd is an outgoing 12-year-old who likes to dance and swim and socialize and, in this, she is not unlike many other young ladies her age.

Amelia has Down Syndrome. A student at Rock Hill Elementary, Amelia and other special education students are getting individualized instruction to help them be all they can be.

What is special ed?

Rock Hill has 311 students in its special education program. While some live in the Rock Hill district others come from neighboring districts under an agreement with those school systems.

“There are kids within the ‘average’ spectrum and kids outside that spectrum and need a little extra help,” Rock Hill Special Education Coordinator Laura Gleichauf explained.

“Every one of these students can be successful,” Superintendent Wes Hairston said. “The role of the school is to help these students achieve that success.”

“Everyone learns at different rates and at different depths,” Hairston said.

Some of the students at Rock Hill will transfer to classes for older students offered in the Ironton City Schools. Others will stay at Rock Hill for their entire education.

Tailored to fit

If each child presents a unique set of challenges, school officials and that child’s parents work to develop an individualized education plan (IEP) that is meant to address those challenges and play to the child’s strengths. The IEP outlines what will be done to help the child learn. In some classrooms, the North American sign language symbols are posted on the walls: Non-verbal students have this options and a means to communicate.

Amelia is a visual learner. Writing is difficult but teacher Jill Huff has found a way around this: computers. Computers can be operated with mouse clicks, not pencil strokes. Perfect penmanship is no longer an issue.

“It’s been very successful,” Amelia’s mom, Robin Boyd, said.

Special education students are not locked away behind a closed door: If the child can be mainstreamed into regular classes during the day and interact with other students, fine.

Amelia gets to eat her lunch with other girls her age, some of whom attend church with her. She is in physical education and music with other non-special ed education students.

“I want her to be able to function as much as she can, to learn and grow and be as much as she can be,” Robin Boyd, said. “I know she has limitations, but I’m pushing for her to do everything possible.”

IEPs are fluid, Gleichauf said. And nothing is written in stone. If changes need to be made because something isn’t working, no problem.

Gleichauf said IEPs are different for each child and are tailored to address that child’s unique needs. IEPs are fluid, Gleichauf said. And nothing is written in stone. If changes need to be made because something isn’t working, no problem.

New at the job

Gleichauf had worked alongside district staff for several years while she was a school psychologist at the Lawrence County Educational Service Center. When the Rock Hill Board of Education agreed to hire a special ed coordinator, she jumped at the chance.

“There is such a teamwork mentality at Rock Hill and I wanted to be part of this,” she said.

Robin Boyd thinks so, too.

“For me this is a great program,” Robin Boyd said. “They have a great staff and everyone is very supportive to the parents. They try to meet the needs of the kids.