“They teach them life skills and work skills and community living skills to make them successful in adulthood,” she said. “They’re able to become more independent and productive members of society and be part of the community.”
Federal law requires school districts to provide additional support after high school for some students with special needs.
“We’re helping them launch into the community once they leave us,” said Jay Schwartz, the program’s principal. “Once you leave the public school system, it’s a wide, wide world. Just like every other child who leaves high school, for our kids, that’s where they are vulnerable, in that transition.”
The FACTS program has about 60 students, with four teachers and more than a dozen volunteers in four classrooms at an educational center near Edison Elementary School. Classes are planned by the week, where students do everything from cooking to laundry, to writing and formatting a resume.
“A typical day is very hard to describe — it’s a community-based program that focuses on independence, vocational skills, life skills, self advocacy, communication,” Schwartz said. “We’re basically teaching them to be productive adults and be members of their community.”
This is the first state award to be presented to more than one school district, and state leaders hope the FACTS program will be replicated elsewhere, said Anthony Sotelo, a special-education consultant with the California Department of Education.