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Emerge Center opens historic autism school in Baton Rouge

Published: Aug. 20, 2018 at 4:38 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2018 at 4:47 PM CDT
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Twenty kindergarteners are the first students attending class five days a week from 8 a.m. to 3...
Twenty kindergarteners are the first students attending class five days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The first day of school at the Emerge Center in Baton Rouge is one for the history books in Louisiana.

Located on Innovation Park Drive, the center opened the doors to the first public school in the state specifically for kids with autism Monday morning.

RELATED: Louisiana's first tuition-free school for children with Autism welcomes first class Monday

Twenty kindergarteners are the first students attending class five days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"In many ways, it's very similar to regular school," the school's principal Leigh Bozard said. "They will have calendar time. They will have circle time. But we will have more hands. More adults in the classroom."

The school has two special education teachers and four assistants. School officials said this gives teachers the ability to address the individual needs of each student.

Each employee has special training and uses autism specific activities to help students learn.

"We also are mindful of some of the sensory needs of our children," Bozard said. "So when practicing the letter of the day, we're gonna be writing it in shaving cream and having that sensory experience."

"We're looking at everything," Special Education Coordinator Melissa Leger said. "We're looking at their social needs, their functional needs, their motor needs, their communication needs. All of that goes into play when you're looking at a child with autism."

The school is the result of a three-year effort that resulted in the Emerge Center's charter being approved. The school is now a part of the East Baton Rouge Parish School system.

The school will add a grade level each year up to fifth grade, and eventually, start sending kids to their neighborhood school when families feel they're ready.

"Our goal is to transition kids as soon as they're ready to their home school," Bozard said. "This is a more restrictive environment, but our goal is to get them ready as soon as possible to move on to bigger and better things."

School enrollment is full for this year.

However, parents interested in the school can get more information about future enrollments at www.emergeschool.org

RELATED: Autism-friendly, sensory-sensitive events and services in Baton Rouge

Students have to live in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, have a diagnosis of autism from a medical professional, and they have to qualify for special education.

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