Students and teachers at the Achievement Learning Centre
Students and teachers at the Achievement Learning Centre

Two years after being evicted special needs students return to in-person learning Come September month end, special needs students of the Achievement Learning Centre (ALC) will resume face-to-face education at its new facility in Canefield.

Many people will remember the ALC had closed its doors in early 2020 due to the inability to pay rent for the property where it was being housed on Elliot Avenue in Pottersville. This closure displaced scores of special needs children and their teachers.

That was coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, which made a difficult situation worse by introducing online learning which was truly trying for some special-needs students and their parents.

Fortunately, the 2022 academic year will welcome ALC staff and students to a new compound. Executive Director of the ALC, Beverly LeBlanc, says students will return to the classroom in two phases.

"We are doing the final renovations to have the place ready for school," LeBlanc said. "We will bring the younger ones - Eagles One and Eagles Two - by the last week in September. The older ones will continue online and will join us in the physical space in October."

Staff of the ALC spent the two years searching for a building to relocate their operations but were met with no success. This time, however, was different as a parent came on board to champion the cause.

"We were helping an autistic child who was not able to fit into the school environment. While doing assessments for the child, the parent organised a room in a facility. We offered programmes for the child, used that facility, and brought in two other students who could not function online. In further discussions we secured three rooms to have as classrooms," LeBlanc said.

Money was a problem for the previous location in Pottersville, and while things are not optimal, financially, the centre found a way to work around it.

"Not having the best of finances we did a task analysis and broke down to small tasks what we need to do and approached corporate sponsors who have really come on board with providing some material we need to do the work and to pay for the labour," LeBlanc said.

The students range in age from four years in the lower levels, to thirteen into their twenties in the upper levels. The centre will take on a multigrade approach teaching both special education and vocational skills to target the different disabilities of each child.

LeBlanc reports that during the ALC's down time, staff worked diligently behind the scenes and will be welcoming more students this academic year.

"During our two-year break we worked on our structures. We developed a child profile form so when parents reach out to us, we send that form to get background information on children. We also have students who go to other schools but parents recognize they have challenges," she said.

The facility will boast not only of having a space for its staff and students but also offering new services which can help members of the disability community.

"One student was already assessed by a speech therapist; the child will be getting therapy at the centre," LeBlanc said. "What that will do is strengthen the capacity of our teachers because the therapist will train the teachers who will be working with the child to ensure the child gets the right therapy."

The ALC is always looking for ways to grow its scope and reach teachers across the country. To this end the centre is networking with teachers across the board to be coached on how to assist special needs children.

"I am working with teachers in other schools to provide training and strengthen capacity. There are children in classrooms but they need that support. We are looking at expanding our services where we go to the school which may have special needs children and don't know how to work with them," LeBlanc said.