'A more typical school experience'

Developmental Success Program to benefit Jasper students

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Jasper City Schools will begin a program during the new school year aimed at better serving students with developmental challenges.

Cathy Edgil, the school system's new director of special programs, said a new Developmental Success Program will help pave the way for students pursuing alternate standards to thrive after high school.

The new program will be piloted this year under the motto "no challenge too large, no victory too small," with a key component being classroom transitions for students.   

"Currently our students who are on extended standards or Alabama alternate standards are in a self-contained classroom, and they are with one teacher all day long. Then they go to enrichment classes or physical education," Edgil said.

Through the Developmental Success Program, students will now have more than one teacher and change classrooms like their peers.  

"This particular program setup will give our teachers the opportunity to work with students from seventh-grade to age 21 who have different learning needs in academics, social, physical, transition, and also work skills," Edgil said. "The purpose of this is to give those students an opportunity to have a more typical high school experience."

She said aspects of the program will also help students prepare for entering the workforce. 

"In Alabama, we begin working on transition when a child enters the ninth-grade, but this program is going to give an opportunity for our seventh graders to start working toward transition and work skills at an earlier age," she said. 

Edgil said students will benefit from receiving an education from multiple adults.

"In the model that we have done in the past, you will have the same teacher for numerous years and you will be in one setting, and it's good to experience having more than one authority figure because in everyday life you'll have more than one authority figure," she said. "I also think learning to transition between different environments is very important when you leave high school."

Approximately 25 students in seventh through 12th grade will benefit from the program housed at Jasper High School, and Edgil said a self-contained classroom teacher at the school came up with the idea for the Developmental Success Program.

When Edgil presented details of the program to parents, she received positive feedback. She hopes the community will rally behind the program's mission to help students with developmental challenges thrive after high school.   

"I feel like this will be a great opportunity for us to grow as a system and also to have some outreach from the community, especially with the work opportunities and community experiences that we plan on having with our kids," she said.

Edgil has been hard at work in her new position as director of special programs. She has been with the school system for 20 years and first taught students with developmental disabilities for two years. She also worked for over 14 years as a speech language pathologist at Memorial Park School.

She said her goal as director of special programs is simple — to help students lead productive lives.

"I would love for our students to leave high school employment-ready, no matter the exceptionality," she said. "I have a child with special needs, and my own son is going to be a senior this year. I would like to strengthen the relationship between our school system and vocational rehabilitation and other community agencies, as well as businesses in our area for job opportunities for our students."  

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