The Schoolhouse in Upton is hosting an Open House on Friday, June 20th
The Schoolhouse for Special Needs (SHFSN) is located in the heart of St. Michael at “Winsome Cottage”, Upton, approximately 5 km from Bridgetown. SHFSN started in January 2006 with a modest group of three students and received the Ministry of Education’s endorsement on September 2nd, 2008.
They provide quality specialized individual programs for children from four years old with learning and developmental challenges. Class groups are small and intimate and do not exceed eight students. SHFSN appreciates an awareness of different learning paces and styles while meeting the special needs of each individual student’s academic, social, emotional, physical, moral and spiritual well-being.
The school establishes and maintains a team-work policy between students, parents, teachers and therapists. Ultimately, we provide a safe, happy and stimulating environment for their pupils to grow and develop at their own pace and in their own unique way under three specific entities: The Schoolhouse (catering to students with mild to moderate learning difficulties); The Annex (catering to students with developmental and cognitive delays and physically challenged students) and The Cottage Industry (young adults with moderate learning difficulties developing potential careers in the art and craft industry).
They’ve got a full complement of qualified and dedicated teachers and ancillary staff headed by Founder and Principal, Yasmin Vlahakis. Mrs. Vlahakis was educated at St. Gabriel’s School here in Barbados and Chiltern Nursery College in Reading-England. Yasmin lived in Zimbabwe-Africa and started her teaching career at St. Giles Medical Rehabilitation Centre. This post opened up her love and appreciation for children who had special needs. Upon her return to Barbados she established Little People Preschool and later joined the staff at St. Angela’s School to oversee their primary special needs program. After ten successful years there she branched out on her own with SHFSN.
In addition to Mrs. Vlahakis, the school’s members are: Ms. Gina Sahai (Assistant Principal, Cassia & Sandbox Class Teacher), Ms. Kimberley Craig (Shak Shak Class Teacher); Ms. Firhanna Bulbulia (Visual Arts), Ms. Alyssa Holder (Volunteer Assistant-Spanish, Religious Studies & Swimming), Ms. Emily Coley (Cottage Industry Teacher, specializing in Drama, Fine Art, & Sign Language), Mr. Alexander Evelyn (Music); Mr. Leslie Bynoe (Physical Education & Martial Arts); Mr. Corrie Cumberbatch (Swim Coach) and Ms. Ruth Anne Alkins (Ancillary Staff).
With recommendations from professional therapists, psychologists and the consideration of the overall needs of each student, they utilize a wide and varied range of strategies and tools. Our subjects are Language Arts and Grammar, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, Spanish, Religious Education, Information Technology, Art & Craft, Food & Nutrition and Physical Education.
The sports program focuses on developing coordination, balance, confidence and hygiene while maintaining a good fitness level. Turn taking, cooperation, team work and friendly competition also set the tone for positive interpersonal relations. SHFSN also incorporates educational and recreational field trips throughout each school term and these are designed to reinforce associated project work while fostering socially interactive skills.
One unique element of the SHFSN’s program is the incorporation of an Individual Educational Plan (I.E.P.). Review meetings are conducted each term with all teaching staff, therapists and parents. These meetings are designed to keep all parties abreast on the development of the student, to exchange recognizable changes/improvements and to devise additional strategies that will continue the educational process. This particular component of their program is an immeasurable activity that always bears fruit. Another exclusive aspect of SHFSN is the allowance for students with mild academic challenges to enter on a day release or interim basis and reintegrate into mainstream schools after the successful completion of the required processes.
SHFSN has partnered with the private sector and the Rotary Club of Bridgetown to acquire a new home for the school. In the past they have organized various events to generate finances for the purchase of a sizeable property that will lend to the effective structure of the three entities and other new ideas that are on the drawing board. These Rotary ventures include noteworthy concerts featuring the FABBA Girls of England in 2011 and 2013 and this year, the Australian Bee Gees held at Illaro Court.