For Dr. Ronald Rinaldi, Executive Director of The Center School, the past year has been a validation.
Through mostly in-person education, he was proud to see that the school’s 50-year-old ethos of serving students with learning disabilities carried its students through one of the most difficult years of their lives.
“Special needs students have a lot of unique issues,” Dr. Rinaldi says. “They have attention deficit issues. They have sensory issues. A lot of times they can’t have certain items touch their skin. So, we’re figuring, some of these kids won’t be able to wear a mask…these are some of the things we were thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this is just not going to work with special needs students.’ And it worked. And they were really great.”
Success is what parents have seen here since The Center School was founded in 1971. Most of the roughly 80 students in grades 3-12 are on the autism spectrum. There’s also a popular transition program for high school graduates up to age 21.
Most students join around third grade, as families realize that their child has learning differences and switch from a mainstream school to a specialized one.
Dr. Rinaldi never minds when a student transitions back to their home district.
That’s the point.
Well, that and seeing the smiles on the faces of those learning how to learn—and the smiles of those who are proud of them.
“We had in-person graduations, and the parents were thrilled that they were able to come and see their children graduate,” he says. “To see just those couple of events, and the smiles on the kids’ faces, that they could be together with their peers, and that their parents could be there—that’s what it’s about.”
2 Riverview Dr., Somerset