The kindergarten through sixth-grade students with moderate to severe handicaps who will use the site need things such as kitchens and bathroom spaces to learn living skills, McNeece said. Traditional classrooms and portable buildings don't have these features, she added.
Also, students using wheelchairs need more space in which to maneuver, McNeece said. The new buildings are designed to accommodate these needs.
Though housed on the Oakley campus, the special education program is run through ICOE. Besides this one, ICOE special education sites for Northend students are at Myron D. Witter School, Barbara Worth Junior High School and Brawley Union High School.
The new facility brings benefits to Oakley students and staff, too.
The multipurpose gym will be available for use by the entire school and one of the newly constructed classrooms will be for Oakley use exclusively.
Several years ago, the Brawley Elementary School District constructed a large classroom for ICOE's special education program at Witter School. By building a new classroom at Oakley for district use, the special education program is, in a sense, paying back the school district, McNeece said.
The whole project, as Oakley Principal Craig Casey said, is "a really positive addition to the school."
Having students with disabilities on campus is a benefit to both Oakley and special education students, McNeece said.
The two groups of students share playground and cafeteria space, Casey said. Though the special education program is separate from the rest of the school, Oakley staff and students don't want to isolate it, Casey said.
This contact benefits the students with disabilities by giving "them access to appropriate models," McNeece said. Oakley students, in turn, learn to be more accepting of students with disadvantages, she added.
"Oakley has been very open and receptive to our students," McNeece said.
Funded entirely by the state, ICOE began filling out paperwork and planning for the construction in 1995. The new buildings are projected to be ready for students in late January, a few months ahead of schedule. The project's building contractor, TSI of El Centro, also has done other work for Brawley Elementary School District and Brawley Union High School District.
>>Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.