Collier School District looks to expand students with disabilities curriculum

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Naples Daily News | by Rachel Fradette and Brittany Carloni | December 17, 2020

Collier County’s School District is purchasing a home next door to Naples High School to expand services for students with disabilities in the district.

The property, which is located north of Naples High School, is planned for use by Collier’s exceptional student education department for students with disabilities in modified curriculums. 

The “real world residential” setting, which will be used during school hours from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., will provide an environment that students with disabilities can use to develop life skills, including cleaning, cooking, laundry and maintenance.

Students will also learn about finances and balancing a budget, according to the district.

Transitioning programs and services offer activities and instruction, including work programs and internships, to assist students with disabilities in their move to post-school life.

In Florida, transition services begin for students with disabilities as young as 14 years old and go through 22 years old.

Collier’s Sharing the Commitment and Partners in Transition committees that focus on exceptional student education and expanding transition services brought up providing experiences like for the past few years, Jennifer Kupiec, a district spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

“This suggestion resulted from feedback and discussion in these committees, which include parents, teachers, administrators, and local service providers for students with disabilities,” Kupiec wrote. 

A home next door to Naples High School, photographed on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, would be bought by the Collier County School District to expand services for students with disabilities.

A home next door to Naples High School, photographed Dec. 14, 2020, would be bought by the Collier County School District to expand services for students with disabilities. Alex Driehaus/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY – FLORIDA NETWORK

In a letter to the Naples planning board and the city council, which must approve a rezoning to allow the school district’s use of the home, the current property owner Rose Ann Toribio said her family has lived at the home for more than 30 years.

“We sincerely applaud and support the School District’s vision to reuse our home and believe the project is an excellent setting to provide independent living education,” she wrote. “Approving the School District’s proposal is a positive step for the community’s high school students with special educational needs.”

Students will travel to and from their school campus to utilize the space, according to the district.

This property will be used similarly to a lab in which students from all high schools with a modified curriculum program will learn and practice activities of daily living and functional life skills.

At this time, there are no plans to purchase more properties for this same purpose, according to the district. 

The property was appraised at $380,000, according to the district. According to the Collier County Property Appraiser’s website, the quarter-acre parcel is assessed at $143,065. 

A home next door to Naples High School, photographed on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, would be bought by the Collier County School District to expand services for students with disabilities.

A home next door to Naples High School, photographed Dec. 14, 2020, would be bought by the Collier County School District to expand services for students with disabilities. Alex Driehaus/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY – FLORIDA NETWORK

Following land-use approvals by the city, Collier’s home purchase will be an extension of Naples High School’s campus.

The Naples City Council voted unanimously Wednesdato move forward discussions of the necessary land-use changes that would allow the school district’s plans on the residential property. 

The city council voted to move forward with the discussions of the following: 

  • An ordinance that would change the future land-use description of the quarter-acre residential property and a portion of the high school’s tennis courts and parking lot from institutional and public. 
  • An ordinance that would rezone the quarter-acre residential property from a single-family residence to a public service district.

Council members also reached an initial consensus on a resolution for a petition “to allow an accessory educational facility” at the residential property.

Naples council members Wednesday spoke positively of the school district’s plans for the house.

The council largely discussed what requirements would apply to the property should the school district want to rebuild or change the use of the home. 

“I like the sound and the intent being put forth,” Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison said at the meeting. “However, over time things change. What we intended to do (at the) beginning of something sometimes can change as time goes on.” 

City staff said the school district would be required to follow zoning regulations already in place in the city should any changes be made to the home or the property in the future.

Final approval of the items is scheduled for a city council meeting Jan. 20.

Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at rfradette@gannett.com.

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Featured image: A home next door to Naples High School, photographed Dec. 14, 2020, would be bought by the Collier County School District to expand services for students with disabilities. Alex Driehaus/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY – FLORIDA NETWORK