A new year, a new principal, a new wing to the building, and new conditions under which to learn greeted students at the Castle Valley Center this year when they returned to campus.
With in-person classes having been suspended last year early because of COVID 19, students were glad to get back when it began in August and new Principal Amy Bell was very happy to see them come through the doors.
“I was worried with the COVID situation how things would go, but everything has been surprisingly great,” she said. “It was absolutely wonderful to have our kids come back. Some of them were trembling with excitement to get here the first day. Most of our students are wearing masks or attempting to wear masks and our procedures are going well.”
She explained that many of the students are not able to wear masks for various reasons so the staff is attempting to use shields and other means to protect them and others as directed by the health department. Bell said that at CVC they are taking precautions to keep everyone safe including taking temperatures of anyone who wants to come in the building and lots of sanitizing.
“We are just being extra cautious and we actually have more wearing masks and shields with no problem than we anticipated,” she stated. “The allowance for us to do things differently with our student population is written in the governor's executive order which addresses schools like ours and the problems some of our students encounter with face coverings in terms of medical conditions.”
One of the goals at the school this year is to build more community access for students. While doing some of that has been tougher because of the situation, school personnel are still pursuing this goal.
“We are trying to help our students transfer the skills they are learning to aspects in the community,” she said. “For instance we are going to have a concession stand in the school to practice such things as exchanging money and making correct choices, based on what level each particular student is at. After they do that, they will be going in to watch a movie. It will be mimicking what happens in a movie theater and the movie setting will help us to reinforce our school behavior priorities of Nice Hands, Nice Feet, Nice Voice.”
Activities at the school can still go on fairly easily because of the small student body which lends itself to social distancing well.
Blayr Bennett, Miss Utah's Jr. Teen, has organized a dance class to help the students gain confiDance! through a school dance program this year.
“The kids are loving that,” she said. “The long term idea is to get our students out to interact with different community members and groups. But instead of going out into the community, the COVID 19 situation has led us to creating community activities here. Actually that has turned into a benefit for us. It has forced us to get out of our comfort zones and learn some new things.”
She said each week there is also an arts and crafts, as well as a pure art class that is going on for students taught by Kennon Nicholson, an artist in the community.
In the near future, a program that will use adaptive physical education to instruct students will be taking place as well. This is being put together by the physical therapists at the facility.
“This will be done in a fun social setting for the entire school,” she stated.
One of the special things about the school is that since there is an adult program that is housed at the school, many long time staff members work with students when they are young, and then transition with them into adulthood.
“This is a special place and I love it here. We have people that have worked with some of those that attend our school for 25 to 30 years, That doesn’t happen in a regular school setting and that creates some very close relationships,” she concluded.