Children unwind in the dimly-lit ambiance of the DES "sensory lab."
The Dade County Board of Education held a special called meeting and workshop at Dade Elementary School on Monday, taking care of business a week in advance of its official monthly meeting, as it seems to have begun doing routinely this year.
But before settling down to business at the Feb. 13 workshop, the board and Superintendent Dr. Jan Harris heard a choral presentation by the Dade Middle School choir (below, right) and toured the elementary school's new "sensory lab."
Special Program Director Debra Brackett explained the new lab is designed to provide students who have sensory input issues a place to go for serenity when they feel overwhelmed by too much stimulus. "The people who work with them can tell when it's building," she said. "We just felt a huge need here."
The lab is designed with low lighting, lava lamps and quiet play areas with sling swings and inflatable ball bins where overexcited children can defuse. Children who can benefit by the lab are identified through evaluation and referrals from doctors. "That population is growing especially here at the elementary school," said DES Principal Tracy Blevins.
Dr. Harris and the board also honored Ms. Blevins and her faculty and staff (left) for having won a prestigious Student Achievement Gold Award from the governor's office. The designation recognizes DES's stellar gains in academic performance over three years. Ms. Blevins said the secret to the school's success was its constant efforts to engage each student.
Bank Director Chris Chance presented the board with a plaque honoring the system's cooperativeness in allowing him time off for his National Guard obligations.
Dr. Harris reported to board members on her progress in areas board members had identified as needing improvement, and presented them a list she had compiled of sources of college endowments open to Dade students. "We have a host of scholarships available," she said.
Also on the agenda were consideration of bids for fuel and equipment and a facilities report from Associate Superintendent Billy Hooker.
The B of E's regularly scheduled meeting is set for 6 p.m. next Monday, Feb. 20, at its offices in front of Dade High on Highway 136 East.