Gov. Mifflin offers new life-skills classroom

News photo by Donna Rovins The living room area of the new life-skills classroom at Gov. Mifflin High School

It looks like a house, but it is really a classroom. The portable classroom on the campus of Governor Mifflin High School has been set up with everything needed to provide transition skills – within the district – for those students that require them.

Over the summer months, the classroom was transformed to resemble a house –totally renovated by the district’s maintenance staff, including siding on the outside, new flooring, kitchen cabinetry and furniture.

The idea is to provide transitional services to students within the home district, as part of the district’s STEP program – Student Transition Educational Program. As each student gets closer to graduation, they will be spending more time in the community at job sites and more time in this new location.

“Our goal is independent living and working for the students based on their individual abilities,” said Tracey Miller, one of the life skills teachers at the high school. She and fellow teacher Ashleigh Seifrit developed the plan.

Previously, Mifflin offered the classroom support, but did not have in-house the home environment transition services and job site placements.

The idea for bringing the job and life skills components to the home district has been percolating for at least the last two and a half years, according to Mifflin’s Director of Special Education, Brenda George.

“When I first came here, Tracey and Ashley spoke with me about it,” George said. “And then last year I asked them to come up with a full proposal – for them to put down their ideas, the effect for the district and the benefit for students. It was a very comprehensive plan.”

“This classroom is one component of our program, which also includes being out in the community at work sites and in a traditional classroom for functional academics and vocational instruction,” Miller added.

As Miller, Seifrit and some of their co-workers cleaned the classroom during the last days of summer break and moved in furniture – much of it donated – the two were very excited.

“This is a big day for us,” Seifrit said.

“We’ll now be able to teach transition skills in a natural environment. We’re now meeting their needs in the best possible environment,” Miller added.

The “home” classroom has a kitchen area, a dining room, a living room, an office and a bedroom. There is no running water in the facility, but Miller said the students will be able to do their food prep and then take it into the school’s kitchen to cook it.

Some of Mifflin’s students have had the opportunity to attend a similar program at the BCIU, but not every student could participate. Now, every student has the opportunity, and Miller said about 20 students were registered. Miller said the parents and students are excited for the opportunity.

“We’re responsible for preparing these students for real life once they leave the school district,” George added.

Part of that preparation includes the job and life skills instruction. Relationships have been established with area businesses to have the students come to work – to gain real work experience.

“These students are members of the community; they will live and work here,” George said.

Establishing the relationships with community partners is an ongoing process, because each student will come in with different needs, according to Miller. But she added that the contacts have not been all that difficult to make. “They are excited to have the students come in,” she said.

“This is making it real for the students. When they leave our environment they are going into real life, not just a classroom. It’s real,” Miller added.

Part of getting ready was the development of training for six paraprofessionals to become job coaches. That training was carried out in July at the BCIU. As part of the renovations, district maintenance replaced outside siding, replaced the deck and walkway, replaced the flooring inside, painted and installed kitchen cabinets and a sink.

“They made this house a home,” Seifrit said.