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Small beginnings, big difference

Stacey Smith is an Oakland school district parent and volunteer who has served on the District GATE Advisory Committee, the school board’s Special Committee on School Based Management, and the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education. What she writes about does not reflect the view of any group.

Burbank Preschool fanWhen I walked into the room I was struck by the sunlight pouring in across a classroom of tiny tables and chairs.

The woman next to me was immediately struck by a small body hurdling itself at her knees for a hug.

Christie Anderson, director of the Burbank Preschool Center, paused mid-sentence to disentangle and chat with the child (and a few others) before we continued our tour.

Moving from classroom to classroom I felt like this could be any preschool in Oakland. Parents were dropping off little ones. Teachers and aides were giving multi-lingual direction to students (Burbank families speak over 15 languages). The reading nook, the imagination corner, and the riot of colors and activities tempted me to just get right onto the floor and start playing. The children were totally engaged.

I did notice in one room a child was using an electronic board with pictures that the child would touch to communicate instead of using words. In another room a wheelchair was pushed up to the snack table with the other chairs. And in one classroom there was a nurse, always, because the students have such severe health impairments that there must be medical support available at all times.

This is what special education preschool looks like. Continue Reading