I have two sons that attend Gateway Science Academy (GSA) Smiley, a fourth grader and kindergartner. My oldest is a fourth grader, who has had exceptional teachers that have helped us move him from being a first grader who cried every morning and asked to be homeschooled, to a thriving fourth grader who would be disappointed if school was cancelled for a snow day.
But instead, I’d like to take a moment to tell you about my youngest son who is a kindergartener this year. The original plan was not to send him to GSA, but rather a nearby public school which utilizes the Special School District (SSD). My son has Down syndrome and with it some of the traditional delays. I thought SSD would be well suited to accommodate his IEP and allow him to attend school with his familiar preschool peers. However, due to circumstances beyond our control, that option was removed from us.
Within hours of finding this out and contacting GSA, I had answers: Yes, my son would be able to attend with sibling preference. Yes, special education would be covered as well as integration into general education classes. Yes, GSA would make this work. And “making it work” has been an understatement.
My son happily waves goodbye as he goes to school every morning. When I pick him up each day, he is all smiles and we have to wait for him to give goodbye hugs with his best friends. He talks about his teachers and his friends every night. In addition to the social butterfly he is, he has absolutely blossomed under the instruction of his teachers and therapists. His work in all areas has shown remarkable progress, from numbers to letters, and speech to communication overall. I cannot stress enough how amazing his teachers and para are for helping the other students not only understand, but also accept and support differences.
The change of plans to attend GSA could not be a better example of what a blessing in disguise looks like. I could give you numerous examples of ways that the teachers at GSA have put in amazing amounts of effort to help both of my sons succeed to the best of their individual ability, but instead I just want to reiterate what a good school GSA is, not only teaching academics, but also teaching strong character and a sense of community. I am very thankful that we are a Gator family.