Love Your School is pleased to introduce another recipient of the A for Arizona Expansion and Innovation Fund Small Learning Communities (SLC) grant, Arizona Autism Charter School! At Love Your School, we’re all about celebrating the unique and innovative options available to families, including these new communities.
Arizona Autism Charter School (AzACS) is a tuition-free, public charter school in the metro Phoenix area serving students K-9 and focusing on the educational needs of children with autism. AzACS expects to expand instruction to grade 12 by 2022.
What inspired this school to launch an SLC? Here’s the story.
COVID-19 has increased the burden on working families to support their children’s education as options dwindle in response to the pandemic. This is especially true for parents of children with autism. Many of Arizona’s youngest students are still not enrolled in school this year and the gap in educational support for young students with special needs is widening.
AzACS primarily serves students on the autism spectrum and related developmental conditions. AzACS has a diverse student body with a majority of students identifying as Hispanic and African-American. AzACS is also classified as a Title I school with 75 percent of the student population utilizing free and reduced lunch.
After learning about the Governor’s Emergency Educational Relief fund and the A for Arizona grant for Small Learning Communities, AzACS went to work immediately to develop an SLC to address this unique challenge.
As a result, AzACS launched the Early Learning Center (ELC) to better support working families during the pandemic and meet the needs of underserved students in the Phoenix metro area. The ELC will establish full-day, eight-student SLCs that specialize in the early intervention of children diagnosed with autism. This extended day model will support working families with wrap-around services and after-school programming at no cost.
AzACS designed the ELC to be a one-stop-shop for small, in-person learning environments, onsite therapies, and parent training and support of young children with autism. This is especially important for students Pre K-2 which is the highest demographic of students not currently enrolled. It’s vital these students receive the support they need to excel academically, socially, and emotionally.
The funding AzACS acquired is critical to creating an ideal SLC environment for AzACS’ youngest learners that allows families to return to work without having to worry about where their child with special needs will go during the day. This alleviates the burden and undue stress of their child’s well-being that was only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
AzACS has partnered with Arizona Autism United, Arizona Division of Developmental Services, and the Psychology Department at Arizona State University to make this SLC possible.
Love Your School is constantly delighted by the innovative and creative spirit of Arizona’s education leaders. Schools like AzACS have stepped up to the plate during these challenging times to bring your family some of the best educational opportunities in Arizona. We look forward to continuing our work with outstanding organizations like A for Arizona and Governor Ducey to promote these unique and exciting SLCs.
Stay tuned for our next school – Patagonia Elementary School!