Approximately 60 elementary students in five self-contained special education classrooms have opportunities to learn computer science. Two grants will fund a pilot program designed to improve equitable access to learning and innovation through the use of educational technology.

While participating schools and classrooms have not yet been identified, the district plans to provide coding opportunities and robotics for students who learn in special education classrooms. Grant funds also will pay for iPads that can be used by special education students in kindergarten through second grade and training so that teachers can support lessons and learn from one another as the program develops.

“Just like their peers, special education students want to feel academic and social success, but may not be ready to engage in activities within the general education environment,” explained Meagan Williams, a special education teacher and special education instructional technology facilitator leading the pilot program. “Through professional development for teachers, support from multiple district departments and solid curriculum, this pilot program will foster student growth and support students in accessing additional science, technology, engineering and math opportunities.”

Williams and other leaders hope to lay an early foundation for future career opportunities by building special education students’ skills in critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Education awarded Vancouver Public Schools a $5,000 grant in late October. The grant is one of 25 awards given to districts around the state to improve access to computer science education.

The Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools matched the grant to bring the total to $10,000. “The Foundation for VPS is pleased to join OSPI in supporting VPS and this pilot program to expand student access to enriching experiences, including computer science education,” said Executive Director Nada Wheelock.