Two Richmond-based educational programs began a collaborative partnership this week that will help maximize opportunities for children with special education needs. Northstar Academy, a private nonprofit school in Henrico County, will host a school-age classroom for children at The Founders Center, a program of Commonwealth Autism.
Northstar Academy Head of School Crystal Trent sees great value in the partnership, which will build on each other’s strengths. “This is a collaboration that will benefit students in both programs.” With an enrollment of about 85 students, Northstar serves children in grades K-12 with a broad range of disabilities. Northstar serves students from 17 school systems in Central Virginia and utilizes small student-staff ratios and custom tailored curricula that meets each child’s individual need to find success.
The Founders Center will serve up to eight of their own school-age students at the Northstar site. Their program uses principles based in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and an even denser student-staff ratio of six staff for every eight students. Utilizing additional staff from Commonwealth Autism, The Founders Center will bring expertise in autism and other developmental disabilities and the opportunity to collaborate with Northstar staff on training and other professional development for both staff and families.
“We feel so welcomed by the Northstar community,” remarks Courtney Vaughan, director of The Founders Center. “This will provide more inclusive educational opportunities for our students. We know that when these opportunities are available, our students often make great gains in social skills. Our ultimate goal is for children to be educated in the least restrictive environment possible.”
Commonwealth Autism operates other community programs, including two Founders Center Early Childhood programs at Clover Hill Christian Academy and All Saints Episcopal Preschool, a Founders Center Transition Program, housed at their headquarters on Parham Road, and Richmond House, a program for adults that offers residential and community supports.
Both programs offer rolling admission and are licensed by the Virginia Department of Education. Northstar is also accredited by Virginia Association of Independent Special Education Facilities (VAISEF) and the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS). Northstar was also recently named a School of Excellence by the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET).