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Community transition program has a new home

They loaded a dishwasher, swept the floor and poured the leftovers into plastic containers. It looked like any other group of roommates cleaning up after lunch, but these students are participating in an educational program preparing them for life beyond high school.

Several South Kitsap High School students in the special education program have an option when they turn 18, if their team of teachers think it’s best, to continue their education in the area another couple of years.

Rather than graduate, they turn to the Community Transitions Program, where they gain the life skills many other graduating students take for granted.

“Their needs are quite different and it’s difficult to meet those needs in a high school classroom,” said Rita Reandeau, director of special education in South Kitsap.

And this year, with a new building constructed with a home-like atmosphere, the students have an open area for their home away from home.

The facility sports a kitchen with a large work counter, lockers for each of the students, work tables and a corner with sofas where students can be found reading the newspaper or playing video games.

Students in the program spend 30 hours each week with the program, splitting their time between part-time work placements at local businesses and educational programs to teach them social skills.

One teacher and four para-educators work with the students on everything from riding the bus and shopping to paying for bills and looking for work.

“Part of the philosophy we’re trying to teach is life outside of the school,” said Robin Christman, the programs instructor.

Students gain a lot of skills in traditional education, but this program educates the day-to-day skills — paying bills, filling out applications — any number of things the students need to learn. And each student is a little different and needs the individualized assistance this program can offer, with a student-educator ration of 3 to 1.

“What we’re trying to do is fill in the rest of those gaps,” Christman said.

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