Proposed charter school to cater to special needs students

Posted October 18, 2013
Updated October 20, 2013

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— Two Raleigh mothers want to open a charter school that focuses on children with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Dynamic Community Charter School still must get final approval by state officials in January, but Diane Morris and Laura Kay Berry said they hope the school serving students in middle- and high-school grades will open by next August.

"It's a good thing I quit my job. It's been quite an immense amount of work," Morris said.

Both women have sons with autism, and they said that public schools simply lack the resources to work with such students. So, they decided to open a school to better serve them.

"We really felt there was a way to better educate them that would better prepare them for life after school," Morris said.

"We had to think about how to reinvent the wheel – how to teach these kids in a different manner," Berry said.

The school plans to have small classes and do plenty of hands-on activities to help the students learn, she said.

"Each semester, the school will have a project that each of the kids will work on," she said. "We not only expect these kids to continue their education with the academic learning, but we’re teaching them real-life skills within the projects."

Mother with son with autism Children with autism inspire mothers to open charter school

The women said other parents and teachers and therapists have helped with plans for the school, which would serve 80 students in its first year and expand in the future. It was one of 26 charter applications given preliminary approval by the State Board of Education this year.

"Somebody asked me recently if I felt like the dog who caught the car, and I said, 'Wow! That’s exactly how I feel,'" Morris said.

The biggest challenge they now face is financial. They need to raise $250,000 to open the school – they still haven't found a site for it – and will have their first fundraiser, including a bake sale and arts and crafts for sale, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, at 3313 Wade Ave. in Raleigh.

Morris and Berry said they are confident they will reach their goal, and they credit their sons for providing the inspiration.

"Because it’s our children, because it’s their future and because I believe they deserve better and can do better," Berry said.

"I felt like I have to do everything I can do right now to create the best possible life for them, and that’s why I did this," Morris said.


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  • westernwake1 Oct 18, 2013

    "Oh, man... I'd fight someone over suggesting mentally challenged kids should be kicked out of public school... but if they want to go form their own charter school of their own free will... I'll help them pack." - jackflash123

    One of the current issues with public schools is that they try to "mainstream" all the special needs students. This means the student lands up in a classroom with 25+ other students with a teacher that is not really prepared to help them while trying to teach an entire classroom.

    A Charter School focused on meeting the needs of special needs students may work out very well for the students, their families, and the overall community. The charter school may also serve as an incubator for special needs programs that spread to public schools to further help special needs students and have a global impact.

  • Hill55 Oct 18, 2013

    They will need more than a bake sale, but I applaud for doing this for these special needs kids. Heck, the regular kids are getting an unremarkable public education.

  • com_mon_sents Oct 18, 2013

    I wish them the best! I hope it works out. Regular ed. teachers in the classroom just can't always meet the needs of every child in the class. I feel kids like this will have their needs met much more effectively in this manner.

  • WralCensorsAreBias Oct 18, 2013

    What a fantastic idea and how wonderful are these ladies. Doing something good through their situations and helping others like them. Their big issue, raising 250K to get going? That's easy!

    How about all those liberal deep pockets that just spent millions to get their special interest candidates elected to the public school system come forward and donate the money! It isn't much more than a fraction of what you just spent to get your personal agendas moving forward and think of the good it will do for the children!

    The elites tell us all the time how we need to do what they say for the good of the children, well I can't think of a better way to put your money where your mouth is and support such a noble cause.

    How can helping children with developmental and intellectual disabilities not be as important to you as a bond campaign or putting another leftie in a school board seat?

  • westernwake1 Oct 18, 2013

    They have a website to support this effort. Very impressive.

  • westernwake1 Oct 18, 2013

    I support this initiative, however I think they have a long road ahead of them to get a charter school focused on special needs students up and running.