Minnesota District Creates School for Children with Autism and Other Special Needs

Northeast Metro Intermediate School District 916 is dedicated to improving the lives of children with special needs, by sharing resources and costs for specialized programs. Karner Blue, a $15 million school set to open in the fall of 2014 in Blaine,Minnesota, will provide a friendly and calming atmosphere for children with autism and other emotional and behavioral disabilities.

The school will serve between 120 and 140 K-8 students, with more than 100 staff members. Professionals are aiding the architects in the design of the building, to ensure every aspect is being catered for the population, including quieter alarms and digital message boards in lieu of loud fire alarms and flashing strobe lights. The school will have an indoor playground, calming rooms, and intimate classroom settings to improve the education quality. Parents cannot ask to send their child to Karner Blue; rather, the child needs to be referred to the school by a professional if their original district cannot meet their educational needs. As of late, most special education classrooms have had typical classroom settings, which is not beneficial or effective for children with autism and other special needs.

The school will consist of four learning pods – forest, prairie, lake and river – to provide a calming nature theme for the students. There will be natural lighting with skylights and strategically placed windows 5 ½ feet from the ground, and no long hallways, to ensure that a behavioral tantrum does not become a “schoolwide spectacle.”

Val Rae Boe will be the principal of the school, and is helping the architects in the designing process,

“We’ve tried to design and develop a facility that would support their unique learning styles and support their behavioral needs, mental health needs including speech language and all the different related services the students need.” [i]

Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices can attest to the benefits of having a school designed for children with special needs. The Snoezelen Room, a multisensory room for the students, is proof that specialized rooms can produce positive outcomes for children with autism. Hopefully more schools across the country will follow this example of creating specialized schools for children with special needs, to provide the best possible education.

[i] “Star Tribune” New school under construction for kids with autism, behavioral disorders. 25 Jun 2013. Web. < http://www.startribune.com/local/north/212985221.html>