Chris Balusik, Chillicothe Gazette
CHILLICOTHE – Facility renovations designed to enhance the ability to teach daily living skills are among the changes that welcomed students back to the Pioneer School this week.
“This is our home training room, where we work on activities of daily living to teach students life skills,” said Regina Speas, Pioneer’s director of education, gesturing around a room looking like a modern kitchen but containing other appliances as well. “All of this is brand new — new countertops, new cabinetry, top-of-the-line appliances from a grant from Lowe’s that we received, I think it was $5,000.
“We also have been collaborating with the Premier Women’s (Health OB/GYN) and the baby booth, so the proceeds from the baby booth, from Premier and the Villarreals, Dr. Villarreal, the proceeds from the last couple of years have helped with the updates.”
Courtney Lewis, community outreach director for the Pioneer Center, said changes to the home training room were essential as, before the renovations, there wasn’t even room for wheelchairs to maneuver easily.
New technology built into the room also will help students facing challenges in using some of the appliances.
“We bought an environmental switch, and you can hook up your everyday appliances to this environmental switch so that students with disabilities who may have mobility limitations where they can’t actually get up to the appliance, you can (essentially) bring the appliance to them,” Speas said. “They can control it by turning it on and off and the speeds, with just the touch of a couple buttons. So if you’re using a mixer, you can just plug the mixer into the environmental switch, bring the switch down to the child and they can just touch the button and turn it and spin it, and it slows it down or speeds it up.”
“There’s a lot of new technology that’s happening with disabilities,” Lewis added. “I think that’s kind of cool to be able to start incorporating that at our school here.”
The home training room, which helps meet one of Pioneer’s primary functions of preparing its students to one day be able to live independently, is just the latest in a series of facility improvements made at the school over the last couple years.
Others this year include new carpeting in all the classrooms, the addition of Smart Boards donated by the Chillicothe VA Medical Center, six of the next-generation Promethean boards and a new, handicap-accessibility to its sidewalk in front of the building to aid in student pick up and drop off.
Other enhancements and changes
Last year, the school’s internal courtyard was leveled off and had stairs removed to increase accessibility and bolster safety in an emergency situation.
The school also took what formerly had been large workshop areas for adult clients of Pioneer when the building first opened and converted it into a conference room, a student-run snack shack and store that helps build student math skills and two new classrooms.
Security enhancements also have been made with new locks on all the doors set up in a way that will maximize the ability of staff to lock down rooms safely in an emergency situation.
Pioneer has made some moves to enhance classroom offerings as well as it has gone through several staff changes. The school is contracting with music therapists this year to provide high school music electives in addition to working one-on-one with students who require music therapy services.
“They are meeting high school graduation requirements so that the students who attend Pioneer School can get diplomas,” Speas said. “They get really excited about getting a diploma.”
Maximizing the ability of Pioneer preschoolers
The school also has an adaptive physical education teacher who adjusts gym activities so that all students can participate. The teacher also will be teaching gym classes to meet high school electives requirements, a first for the school.
Pioneer’s preschool program also has made a move this year from Ohio University Chillicothe’s Child Development Center to the city schools’ Mt. Logan facilities in what Speas said will be an excellent collaboration to maximize the ability of Pioneer preschoolers and city schools preschoolers to come together on some activities.
Pioneer’s preschool year begins Sept. 4.