(COVINGTON, La.) St. Paul’s School created a new program for special needs students this school year in an effort to diversify the student body and live out the Lasallian core principle of inclusive community. The new program, dubbed “CORE Pack,” stands for the Catholic Opportunity for a Responsive Education, but the word “Pack” of course reflects the school mascot.
CORE Pack is considered a pilot program, according to Principal Trevor Watkins, and has been extensively planned by administrators and the St. Paul’s community.
“Many sources played a role in creating the program,” Watkins said, “and members of the St. Paul’s community with special needs siblings or children have been big proponents for creating it.”
Organizations such as the Archdiocese of New Orleans Office of Catholic Schools and the Tulane University Center for Autism and Related Disorders have helped in the planning of this program encouraging Lasallian schools to create programs to serve special needs students in their respected communities. In effect, some local Catholic elementary schools, such as Our Lady of The Lake in Mandeville, have incorporated special needs programs into their annual curriculum. Furthermore, the new CORE Pack program allows northshore children with special needs to pursue a Catholic education through high school that may have not been previously possible.
“Many of these students and their parents have felt they were not fit to attend St. Paul’s in the past,” Watkins said.
The CORE Pack, currently made up of five students, is headed by new faculty members Ashley Guillot and Jean Dutrial, who both specialized in education for special needs children.
“The program was built around these two highly trained teachers,” Watkins said.
CORE Pack students will all receive highly individualized education programs designed around their strengths and weaknesses in a classroom prepared for them in the library. Also, they will participate in a handful of electives including religion, computer science and art. CORE Pack students are also greatly encouraged to participate in all the extracurricular activities that St. Paul’s has to offer.
Watkins also mentioned that the application process for CORE Pack students is very similar to that of traditional the St. Paul’s application process, including viewing past grades and entrance tests scores.
The pilot program will serve to help develop similar programs at other local Catholic high schools.