School for children with autism must find new home after this school year
Ventura County Star - 9/11/2017
Sept. 10--Isaac DeCuir loves his school -- he'll happily tell you he likes everything from the cafeteria down to his math class. He even likes the homework, but only when it's easy.
He said he's excited to go to school every day and that school makes him feel comfortable, which is not something always possible for a child with autism spectrum disorder.
Isaac, 16, is a junior at Triton Academy, which serves the county's children with autism spectrum disorder. The school recently learned it would have to leave its current location in Camarillo at the end of the academic year -- a move that could be jarring for some students who find comfort in routine. But Issac isn't concerned.
"I'm looking forward to a new campus to explore," Isaac said. "Maybe this one will even be indoors. Time will tell."
Triton Academy has operated for the past 10 years out of the same building, leased from the Pleasant Valley School District. The district told the school that, because of expected growth in enrollment, it anticipates needing the site for its own students next school year.
Triton Academy is operated by the Ventura County Office of Education and provides a comprehensive educational program for the 83 students who attend. The program specifically addresses language, communication, behavioral, sensory and social needs that are often associated with autism.
"We're all a little anxious about the idea of moving," said Brett Taylor, Triton Academy principal. "But it's safe to say the facility doesn't make the school, the people serving it and the students do. We've built a culture and a community of education here and we are going to continue to lean on each other."
The program is near and dear to both educators and parents.
Isaac's grandfather, Dennis DeCuir, said he's seen a vast improvement in his grandson's abilities since he came to Triton Academy from a traditional middle school five years ago.
"The pace was too fast, too loud, too crowded at the middle school," Dennis said. "Coming here was a game changer. They have the knowledge and the ability to handle these students. The change is night and day."
Dennis said Isaac has been more flexible, more social, more outgoing and conversational since starting at Triton.
Triton Academy and the Ventura County Office of Education are actively exploring several options to relocate the school, including finding an unused or underused facility in another school district, using an existing VCOE facility or creating a temporary campus with relocatable buildings on a vacant site.
VCOE has reached out to the superintendents of the county's 20 school districts to request their assistance in identifying potential new locations for the school.
"We do not anticipate any interruption in the vital services Triton Academy provides to its students and their families," Stan Mantooth, Ventura County superintendent of schools, said in a statement.
The idea of moving school locations does concern Dennis a little, though. But he said he's confident the Ventura County Office of Education will locate and create a suitable environment for the students.
"There is no doubt there's going to be a school," Dennis said. "No matter where that school is, we'll be there."
VCOE has set up a webpage to keep parents, employees and the community up-to-date about efforts to find a new location for Triton Academy, visit vcoe.org/triton-move for more information.
(c)2017 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
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