Crescent City Schools Creates New Program for Students With Exceptional Needs

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In the fall of 2016, Crescent City Schools piloted the Aurora Program for our network of three schools in New Orleans. This highly individualized program is designed to meet the unique needs of children with documented emotional and behavioral concerns that are significantly impacting the child’s ability to be successful in his/her regular school setting. The mission of the Aurora Program is to develop scholars that are focused, academically productive, and passionate about their own learning. Crescent City Schools designed the Aurora Program to accommodate the educational and behavioral needs of scholars who, despite ongoing interventions in their home schools, are not currently successful in those settings. The goal of the program is to return the students to their home school when they have met the goals necessary to be successful. Because those goals may be different for different students, the Aurora Program is designed to meet the unique needs of each individual child.

For the pilot year, the goal was to establish the Aurora Program in a separate location with at least two classrooms serving 12 total students in grades K-3. Aurora exceeded this goal, serving 14 students in grades K-3. In 2017-2018, Aurora has expanded the grades served, adding students in grades 4 and 5 to the program.

The Aurora school day includes ample time for academic work, social and emotional learning, and enrichment classes. Breakfast, lunch, and snack are provided. The program has a small student to teacher ratio (8:1), and each classroom has a full-time paraprofessional for additional support. Staff regularly monitor and review progress towards IEP goals, and the Director of the Aurora Program, Emma Weiss, works directly with the Special Education Department from each scholar’s sending school to keep them updated on scholar progress.

Director Emma Weiss also facilitates visits from community members who discuss their life experiences and help inspire students to stay on track with their personal goals. Recently the Aurora Program welcomed members of NOLA Nobles, a group of men who meet once a month to discuss problems that impact the African-American community in New Orleans. Their visit to Aurora was important, as it was their first “Life and Career” session held in this academic year. The men met with all of the Aurora students individually to discuss some of the important things they felt were impacting them in their classrooms. They then met with them as a group to talk about how they can stay involved with their community in positive ways and how important it is to set goals around their future careers and to start working towards those goals now.

“Having members of the community visit with our students gives them the opportunity to meet and connect with positive role models on a personal level,” said Ms. Weiss. “I am always looking for ways we can help our scholars to grow, not only academically, but in their personal lives outside of the classroom as well. I am grateful for programs like NOLA Nobles, who are taking the time to reach out to the future leaders of our communities,” she added. “The ultimate goal of the Aurora Program is for students to return to their school of origin, prepared to succeed beyond their time in the program, and eventually as community leaders.”