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Strong Academics in a Therapeutic Setting

Education is an integral part of the O-School's milieu treatment. Education supports the O-School’s culture of giving students opportunities to learn, thereby building self-esteem, improving executive functioning skills and preparing them for full lives. Being an active learner capable of socially engaging with adults and peers prepares young people at all levels for productive and happy lives.

Our curriculum is rigorous, meaningful, adaptable, and consistent with established learning standards, while also responsive to individual student needs.

– Jerry Martin, M.Ed., Former O-School Principal

The O-School offers an adaptable, rigorous and well-rounded academic program for students in the Therapeutic Day Program. The O-School curriculum encompasses:

  • Elementary education
  • Middle school
  • High school
  • Foreign language
  • Fine arts
  • Physical education

Academic expectations are not lower because students attend the O-School. The current curriculum meets or exceeds school district and state requirements for advancement and graduation.

What differs are the O-School’s built-in milieu treatment support structures that enable students to more readily engage with the curriculum and achieve genuine success as learners:

Small Classrooms with Low Student-to-Teacher Ratios

Classrooms have nine to ten students with two teachers per classroom, allowing students to receive individualized attention when needed while still being a part of a group.

Individualized Programs for Each Student

While the O-School's curriculum is robust, it is also designed to meet students where they are, and academic expectations are balanced with appropriate supports.

Accepting and Nurturing Atmosphere

The O-School puts significant focus on creating an atmosphere that provides a sense of emotional and physical safety because students cannot learn if they don’t feel safe.

A Consistent Schedule

Planned school days, including co-curricular and social activities, allow students to know what to expect and when, making their day-to-day world less overwhelming, as well as more predictable and manageable.

Supportive Relationships

Relationships are key to the learning process. Close ties between students, teachers, counselors and peers decrease the uncertainty that often is inherent in large school and social settings.

The O-School’s strength-based approach enables students to first identify, then develop their own interests. As growth takes hold, students are increasingly able to manage the demands and expectations of the larger world.

A Progressive Education Philosophy

The educational process at the O-School is guided by the principles of Professor John Dewey from the University of Chicago, whose philosophies have been in practice at the University for more than a century.

  • Building relationships
  • Learning by doing
  • Meeting children where they are

These concepts are fundamental to daily classroom interactions, structure and routines at the O-School — creating an environment of active, productive learning.

Complementing these concepts is the O-School’s long-standing philosophy of individualized care, applied directly to education.

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or Individual Academic Plans (IAPs) are developed for each student. These are interwoven with customized skill development plans based on the way each student studies, thinks, organizes, learns with others and self-advocates.

Adapting to the individual is a hallmark of the O-School's care, in contrast to many other programs for emotionally vulnerable students that rely heavily on programmatic, computer or workbook-based learning.

The External Review Team found that there is great interest in meeting the needs of the individual students.

– AdvancEd Peer Review, 2016