Today is the last day of this assignment, but they asked me back for next week. I really love teaching these guys, but there are problems:
- Funding. The students have to work part of the day to make-up spending gaps.
- No Medical Staff. There is an on-call nurse, but in the case Jesus or Joey next-door has a gran-mol seizure, there is no one who is allowed to help.
- Only one staff member is trained to work with students with these disabilities.
- The facilities are decrepit.
Money is a huge issue for any school program in Utah, but this one is special: the students have to work to earn the funding gap. The more advanced classes go out into the community to work and build the skills to get jobs, but the students in the classes I’ve been subbing with have to work too. These guys have some severe disabilities and to earn money, they shred paper for the school district and other companies. This is okay I guess, but the time they spend shredding could be used fine-tuning life skills they could use like eating with utensils, washing their faces, brushing their teeth, getting dressed, making beds and many other skills most people take for granted. A current parent request is to teach their student to sit through a movie.
The missing medical staff is a problem. All of the students I taught this week take medication to prevent seizures, but they still get them. Jesus has a panic seizure every time he drinks water. What if something severe happens and immediate medical assistance is needed and the one, on-call nurse is at another school taking care of students. The staff has also mentioned it would be nice to have a physical therapist come in to work with the students. I don’t think a doctor or even a PA is necessary, but some medical expertise is required.
The primary teacher, Crystal, is trained to deal with special-ed students with severe disabilities, but only one of the others even has a bachelors and it is in English (I think that is fine as that is what I went to college for, but what if specialized knowledge is needed?). The staff works hard to educate themselves and they are very loyal to the students, but the emotional bonds they are building sometimes gets in the way of the work they have to do and they know it. Loving people are great, but loving trained personnel would be better.
The facilities the students use are World War Two temporary structures used by the Provo School District in the place of actual buildings. The buildings smell of mildew and one of them has a giant ant infestation. The ramps leading to the doors are rotting as are the steps and the carpets haven’t been cleaned in ages. Now to be fair, there is great technology in the buildings with a promethium board, six 27″ iMacs, 3 teacher Power Books and a Wii. I like that stuff and it is very good for the students to have, but the buildings themselves are falling apart around the ears of the students and staff despite the constant attention of district electricians and handymen.
I love the program. I worked with two men who graduated from Alpine School District’s version of this program and I know it works. These two men are functioning members of society and one of them is making 30k+ a year. I just think the State could be doing more to help these students learn to be as independent as possible without the four problems I’ve mentioned above.