The academic year has just begun and schools across the city are working to establish spaces where students feel welcome and at home. For some staff and students at Essex PS, that work began last spring when they transformed a dusty, unused classroom into a home-away-from-home. Developmentally Delayed students moved beds, wardrobes, tables, exercise equipment, and even a Wii unit into their classroom, making it an apartment-like space where they can learn and practice life skills they will need to know when they graduate. They practice setting tables, preparing snacks, using kitchen utensils and appliances, folding laundry, sorting supplies, vacuuming, and occasionally get a chance to relax while playing video games.
"This creates an environment where students will feel really comfortable in their classroom space. We're a family here at Essex and this initiative enhances that concept," said Principal Marc Green. "But equally important, this is about meeting the needs of all our students and equipping them with skills they'll need in the future."
The students' teacher Colin Brophy agrees. "The kids do a great job learning their functional life-skills, and organizing and cleaning their apartment," he said. "They learned a lot of very practical skills last term, skills I wish my own child would use," he joked.
The school's phys. ed. teacher is happy too. Brophy's students also learned how to use a washing machine and dryer, so Essex PS sports jerseys have never looked or smelled so clean!