Charter School with Autism Focus Closer to Reality

Posted at: 07/31/2013 10:32 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- It's an idea that came from the parents of students with autism, a school specialized to meet the needs of their children. It's called Rochester Beacon Academy, and it's one step closer to becoming a reality. The group has already formed an 88 page charter and it's been approved by their authorizer. 

"There are some pragmatic skills that continue to be challenging for him," said mother Jolene Richard. She wants what's best for two boys Payton and Jensen. Her son Payton will soon be entering middle school, a transition that may be difficult with his spectrum of autism. "Some of these kids have a difficult time feeling successful," said Jolene. 

"I want to be like up there with all the other kids too," said Payton.

However, she may soon have another option that is a better fit for Payton. "Originally it started as an idea for children who are on the autism spectrum, because we cannot segregate only those who have autism, it will actually serve any need but will specialize in working with executive function skills," said Jenn Leuthold with the Rochester Beacon Academy. It’s a charter school for grades 6 through 10 that meets the individualized needs of every learner. "We are on track to open in the fall of 2014. We have the charter written, we have been approved by an authorizer, so they sort of serve as the big brother of the process and they will represent us in taking it to the Minnesota Department of Education," said Leuthold. 

"I'm seeing this as a very good collaborative effort with everybody involved and to me, that very exciting," said Brad Trahan with the RT Autism Awareness Foundation. Trahan says he'd consider it for his son. " If my son were to fit that criteria and they're one that they think they can help, we would certainly take a look at it, absolutely," said Trahan.

Jolene and her husband think that type of learning would be more beneficial for her boys' future. "In the mainstream school, not all of their needs can be met, and to have another option for my boys to succeed in a school environment, I feel is definitely important," said Jolene. 

Everyone we spoke with wanted to stress that the Rochester Public School District is doing a great job and that this is just another option for kids who may need more individualized care. 

If you want to learn more about this charter school, they're having an ice cream social Monday at Three Links Park in Rochester at 5:00 pm.