Breaking News
More () »

Fort Smith/Fayetteville News | 5newsonline KFSM 5NEWS | Get the local news and weather where you live from 5NEWS. Covering Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Bentonville, and all of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

Franklin County Learning Center Drops School Age Program

FRANKLIN COUNTY (KFSM) – After 45 years, the Franklin County Learning Center is suspending its program serving school age students. The Franklin County Learning...

FRANKLIN COUNTY (KFSM) – After 45 years, the Franklin County Learning Center is suspending its program serving school age students.

The Franklin County Learning Center is a non-profit that teaches people in the area who have learning disabilities. The center has been open for more than 45 years, but has now decided to end their school-age program which includes students from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade.

A total of 110 students attend the Franklin County Learning Center, but 20 of them will be learning and walking the hallways in a different school starting in August. The students who are school aged will be transferring to public schools so they can get more exposure to others and have more opportunities.

“We discussed it at the last board meeting and decided that the time is here and that we need to go ahead and do it,” said Diane Walls, learning center executive director. “It will be a challenge for them because they’ve been in small protected environment.”

The Franklin County Learning Center, which opened in 1971, has provided services to people as young as infants to ages 65-plus. Learning center officials said they’re hoping this transfer to the public schools will give the students more opportunities to interact with non-disabled children their age in a learning environment.

“They will have exposure with non-disabled peers and have opportunities that other children have,” Walls said.

Three students from the learning center will be transferred to County Line, and the other 17 will go to the Ozark School District. Although there was some fear that the school districts would not be able to accommodate the extra students, officials at Ozark Schools said they have enough space and staff to take on more students.

“Staffing personnel may change, but that might not necessarily be any different because this is something we look at in special education every year as those changes occur,” said Chris McCaine, special ed supervisor at Ozark School District. “Space wise we have undergone a very ambitious building project and we will accommodate our students.”

Waslls said that although the center is losing a large group of students who they’ve loved over the years, they’re excited to expand their other two programs.

“It’s going to give us room and space to expand the preschool and adult program," Walls said. “The public school is responsible and do serve those children, but if we didn’t serve the preschool and adults no else does in this county.”

One teachers at the Franklin County Learning Center will be let go because of this change. However, the facility will be keeping their para-professionals.