A vote by aldermen Monday night paved the way for establishing a much-needed Coast branch of school for evaluating and teaching students with dyslexia.
As discussed earlier, the city will move forward with a lease for five classrooms at the Taconi building, a former elementary school behind the Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center off Government Street.
Mayor Connie Moran called a special meeting Monday evening with several issues, one of them the classrooms. In order for the city to lease the rooms at a little above the cost for maintenance and utilities, aldermen had to find that the city has no need for the space. That’s what they did Monday.
All that’s left now is for the city’s attorney and officials with the Dynamic Dyslexia Design School, also called the 3-D school, to hammer out the details of the lease, said Alderman Mike Impey.
“The aldermen are 100 percent committed to this,” he said.
Impey said school director Cena Holifield needed an agreement by the end of the month so the school could begin seeking teachers and advertising for students.
The Taconi site is a temporary location for the school. Impey estimates it will need the space for about two to three years before building a more permanent school at land donated at Tradition on Mississippi 67.
The 3-D school was established in Petal in 2008 and has worked with hundreds of students whose primary diagnosis is dyslexia. Dyslexia is a disorder that involves difficulty reading or interpreting words, letters or numbers, but has nothing to do with intelligence.
Holifield told aldermen recently, “(Dyslexia) is a smart person’s issue” and one in five young students has it.
A number of Coast children have been going to Petal to attend 3-D’s three-year program. The tuition is $4,500 a year, but Holifield said state funding keeps the cost reasonable.
“It’s less expensive than any other special-purpose schools in the United States,” she said.
Holifield said the school will set criteria and give guidelines for students to enter the school. Interested parents should look soon on the3dschool.org website soon, she said.
Evaluators are testing children for the Coast school, and those already tested will have priority.
“The children can’t be accepted into the school without the proper testing,” she told the Sun Herald. “If parents are interested in their child attending, we have to hear from them.”
She stressed dyslexia must be a child’s primary diagnosis.
“We’ll fill those classrooms up pretty quickly,” she said. “Taconi is a great location. It’s temporary, but it will serve us well.”