Austin ISD Considers Opening A School For Young Adults With Autism

Jan 22, 2020

A local nonprofit wants to start a school in Austin that serves young adults with neurological conditions like autism.

Easterseals of Central Texas is seeking to start the school within the Austin Independent School District. The school would help students older than 18 who have autism or other conditions learn important life and workplace skills. Students would attend the school after completing high school graduation requirements. 

A school solely focused on special needs is unique and would likely be popular in Central Texas. 

Easterseals sent in an application to create a partnership with the district under Senate Bill 1882, a state law that allows traditional public schools to function as charter schools.

Typically, charter schools are independent of traditional public school districts. Charters do not have to follow the same requirements and rules other AISD schools do, so the school could have more flexibility with its schedule and curriculum.

AISD is already taking advantage of this law at Mendez Middle School, which failed state accountability standards for five years. It is now being run as a charter school, with the Texas STEM Coalition at UT-Tyler overseeing the school’s curriculum. 

Easterseals wrote in its SB 1882 application that the goal of its school would be to increase "the likelihood of independence – as adults – for a specific subset of students who qualify for special education services and have unique skills and interests in creative arts and technology that, with the right transition support, make them employable in jobs not currently promoted through AISD’s existing transition planning process." 

The school board reviewed the application at a meeting last week, and many members were excited about the idea. 

"I think this provides an opportunity for our students with neurological conditions, etc., to get an education that will really help them … reach their potential and thrive in the community," Trustee Ann Teich said. "I'm also glad we have a chance to monitor this to see if it really works."

The school could help boost AISD's enrollment if students from other Central Texas school districts attend it.

Got a tip? Email Claire McInerny at claire@kut.org. Follow her @ClaireMcInerny.

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