Career & Education

Committed to the best care

The former Best Care Lodge transitions into special ed school

BY FALON FOLKES
Career & Education reporter
folkesf@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 10, 2018

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Since its transition to a full-time school in 2016, Best Care Special Education School has been working assiduously to ensure its students are adequately prepared for the world.

Principal Autense France said the school's focus is helping students achieve a certain level of independence by the time they graduate. To do this the school has introduced several vocational courses. Currently, the students are exposed to cosmetology, sewing, horticulture, agriculture, homemaking skills, and jewellery making.

Some of the costume jewellery is sold, and there are plans to develop the agriculture programme so that it becomes an earning stream as well.

But Best Care doesn't just impart the skills to the students and leave it there. There is a connection with the world outside the institution's walls.

“I have in place what I call a transition programme. We have started taking them on the road and taking them to places to see how what they are learning here can become marketable and profitable out there. We work with them on calculation, so we take them to the market,” France explained.

“I want them to not only go on work experience, I also want them to go on voluntary service when they become older. What I want them to be able to do is develop good work ethics, so I am going to be sending them into organisations to volunteer their service, to start looking at how they respond to people in authority in the workplace, and the kinds of things you can say in the workplace,” she added.

But, as they say, it takes cash to care.

“I recently acquired some tablets and so we going the route of technology in which we teach them to use the tablets to tell us their needs,” France said

She explained that the tablets are an upgrade from the communication board her students previously used, and stressed that more are needed because at the moment, teachers are rotating 12 tablets among the 52 students.

France also wishes to revive the school's computer lab to help her students prepare for and transition into the working world.

Run by the Best Care Foundation, the special ed school was once a home for people with special needs, but due to financial constraints the foundation and the Child Protection and Family Services Agency decided to close it and route the wards to other facilities.

“The Child Development Agency (now Child Protection and Family Services Agency) ensured that the process was as smooth as possible. So the children are properly in the care of the Child Development Agency,” foundation chairman, Orville Johnson told Career & Education, adding that the institution transitioned into a school “because we have maintained our commitment to the special needs sector”.

There is evidence of that commitment in the tuition. Best Care charges $40,000 per term, while other special education institutions charge up to $150,000 per term. France acknowledged that the sum is not enough to run the school, but says, “This place is trying to provide a service to the community; it's not trying to make a profit. It's more trying to provide a service.”

To offset expenses the foundation hosts two fund-raisers annually a banquet and a comedy show.

“That kind of accumulation has to stretch, and sometimes we might have a well-wisher here or there that may do something,” the principal added.

As a residential facility, the institution was known as Best Care Lodge.

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