This article was contributed by Adam Breen, public information/community relations officer with San Benito High School.
As part of the ongoing effort to improve educational opportunities and support the district’s priority of inclusion for all students, San Benito High School District relocated the Life Skills program in 2014 to the heart of campus, in the quad behind the main administration building.
Today, 10 education specialists including teachers, and more than 30 aides and support staff work directly with around 60 students throughout the year, including a comprehensive summer program. These students are part of the larger school community supported by general education populations: peers, teachers, campus supervisors, food services, transportation, and administrators on San Benito High School’s upgraded campus.
The Life Skills facilities were the first areas on campus to receive energy efficient and climate-controlled air conditioning following voter approval of bond measures in recent years. What once was a staff lounge has been renovated into a state-of-the-art “common room,” a gathering space and learning environment that provides special education students a place for activities such as cooking, art, preparing for various employability skills, laundry and personal hygiene. This facility also provides a place for Life Skills students and staff to have lunch and for the Circle of Friends club to bring together special needs students with their general education peers.
In designing the spaces, the architects worked with educators to plan which amenities would be included in each learning space. Classrooms include learning walls on which teachers can write, have storage, and added doors for flow in the learning center that was developed based on staff input. The common room was extensively upgraded including the addition of a stove and oven, laundry, cabinets, dishwasher, showers, and expanded hygiene, changing and toilet areas.
Additionally, the district renovated another wing of classrooms to include learning walls, upgraded technology and new classroom furniture.
“These rooms are not just classrooms, they are a sensory room, speech and language center, modified P.E. classroom, an educationally related counseling space, and our transition classroom for adult students who spend much of their day in the community,” said Special Education Director Paulette Cobb. “All rooms have the same amenities that all students enjoy in their classes, such as new carpeting, new window coverings, and fresh paint and cleaning each summer.”
Outside, seating has been expanded to include wheelchair-accessible tables with umbrellas. Additionally, Life Skills students have access to the campus culinary classroom, music room, dance and art studios, and Career Technical Education classes such as floriculture integrated into all general education and P.E. facilities with general education students. All students access the cafeteria, library or any other facility available to students and travel the same newly-constructed paths to get across campus.
“Throughout the school-wide projects there has been a close eye regarding Americans With Disabilities Act access, including but not limited to, ramps, push button doors, athletic facilities, and more accessible bathrooms,” Cobb said. “SBHSD continues to proudly grow and develop on behalf of all students. All upgrades have been for all students and we are proud of our facilities.”
Anyone interested in a tour of the campus special education classrooms or facilities, please contact Nydia Buelna at (831) 637-5831, ext. 130.