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White Oak School 

Providing a Nurturing Environment for Students with Learning Disabilities

White Oak School, located in Westfield, boasts a picturesque campus with three buildings designed to meet the diverse needs of its students. The high school Building A houses a gymnasium, library, nurse, student support services, and speech pathologists. Building B is an electives building, equipped with a TV studio, pottery shop, art room, culinary arts room, and wood shop. The lower school Building C features the cafeteria and administration offices, creating a comprehensive educational environment.

As a 766 school, White Oak accepts outplacements from various districts, with the home school district assuming fiscal responsibility for sending students. While there is a private pay option available,  families most often collaborate with their districts in the outplacement process. Receiving a referral from your home district  can be a journey, as districts strive to support students within their schools. Typically, students already have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and worked closely with their families and schools to find the right educational fit. However, the resources available within the district may not always be appropriate for their specific needs.

One remarkable aspect of White Oak School is its ability to attract students from far and wide. Alexandra Sutter, the Director of Admissions, mentions, "We have students from all over Massachusetts and Connecticut, and have had students from as far away as NH and VT who travel every day to attend White Oak." This demonstrates the school's reputation for providing specialized education to students with diagnosed language based learning disabilities, dyslexia, impairments in reading, writing, math, executive functioning delays, and attention challenges. White Oak School utilizes a specific set of strategies to help these students access the curriculum and demonstrate their knowledge. Sutter emphasizes that the students at White Oak are bright, creative, and hard working individuals and that this program does not specialize in behavioral challenges. 

Recently celebrating its 34th year, White Oak School has a rich history. It was originally established in Springfield before relocating to Westfield in 1997. David Drake, the founder of the school, is described by Sutter as a "knowledgeable and kind man" who dedicated his life to students who had often been overlooked by traditional education systems. Jody Michalski, the current Head Of School, continues this long tradition of individualized instruction. White Oak School has cultivated a tight-knit community where "everybody knows everybody," and they come together to meet the needs of their students.

White Oak School is certified to teach students from 1st to 12th grade. Currently, the school enrolls students from 3rd to 12th grade, with a student population of under 100. With a maximum capacity of 125 students, the school maintains a low student-to-teacher ratio of approximately 1:3, ensuring personalized attention and support.

The teaching staff at White Oak School is dedicated to creating a supportive learning environment. Alex Schindel and Tiffany Lynch, two of the longest-standing teachers, exemplify this commitment. Each teacher at the school teaches three periods of tutorial classes and three periods of content area classes. This holistic approach aims to develop student's communication skills and overall confidence.

A typical day at White Oak School consists of seven periods, including Language Arts, Math Arts, Science, Social Studies, Tutorial, Oral Expression (social pragmatics), and an elective or gym class. The schedule incorporates breaks throughout the day to encourage attention and comprehension, especially for students who may struggle with these areas. Each day follows the same schedule, providing a predictable routine for all students. Every morning, the entire school starts their day in the cafeteria where morning announcements are made and lunch orders are taken. Additionally, the school pairs younger students, specifically seventh grade and below, with older students in a mentorship program, fostering a sense of guidance and camaraderie.

White Oak School places significant importance on post-school planning and supporting students' college aspirations. Sutter explains, "In addition to academics, the majority of our students are college-bound." The school has a dedicated career counselor who assists with college applications and resumes, ensuring that students have a solid plan for their future. Remarkably, approximately 85% of White Oak School graduates continue their education at the college level, and solid plans are put into place for students who prefer to take a vocational track.

Beyond academics, the school offers numerous social and artistic opportunities. Students can explore a variety of electives, where art classes, for example, tie into what they learn in science, social studies and math. Extracurricular activities are available after school, including sports programs such as soccer, basketball, ultimate frisbee, and cross country. The school also organizes field trips, clubs, and even outdoor adventure activities. Proms and dances add to the social fabric of the school, fostering a sense of belonging and celebration.

White Oak School stands as a testament to the power of inclusive education and personalized support for students with learning disabilities. Through its nurturing environment, comprehensive curriculum, and emphasis on post-school planning, the school prepares students to not only overcome challenges but also thrive academically and socially. The sense of community and familial bond at White Oak School creates an environment where every student is known, valued, and supported on their educational journey.

White Oak School

533 North Rd

Westfield, MA 01085

Whiteoakschool.org

413-562-9500

White Oak School has cultivated a tight-knit community where "everybody knows everybody," and they come together to meet the needs of their students.

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