SHOW LOW — Lexington Life Academy welcomed parents and staff back from summer break with an open house event on Monday, Aug. 5. The Pre-K to 12 private school resumed the new session on Tuesday, Aug. 6 with approximately 52 enrolled students.

“We have really grown and are almost at our building capacity of 60,” says Principal Mary B. Kline. “We have 24 staff that are phenomenal at helping parents understand what we do and the resources that are available to them.”

The school’s area of expertise is educating children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other special needs and/or developmental disabilities.

“Generally, our teacher to student ratios are four to one (4:1),” informs Kline, “which allows us to provide a high standard of education that meets the needs of our students.”

“Our purpose is not to take students from the public schools even though we are private and charge tuition,” explains Kline. “We are focused on helping students return to the public school setting if that is their goal. To accomplish this, we partner closely with the local school districts and other partners such as Summit Regional Medical Center and ChangePoint Integrated Heath.”

Recently, Lexington has applied and been approved by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) as a private school under the state’s criteria, according to Kline. “Our new certification will help us continue to use evidence-based practices while individualizing our student programs.”

A benefit of becoming ADE certified is being able to work with the state to help parents pay for tuition through the state voucher system called the Empowerment Scholarship Account, program, known as “ESA”. ESA is an account administered by the Arizona Department of Education that is funded by state tax dollars to provide educational options for qualified Arizona students.

Lexington is also certified through the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) which specifically serves people in Arizona with developmental disabilities and their families.

The Lexington team

There are many dedicated staff at Lexington Life Academy who work together to teach and support the students at every level of their development.

During Monday’s open house, the teachers shared a little bit about themselves with the Independent.

Maria Kilber, in her third year at Lexington, teaches Lexington preschool students on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. “In our classroom, it’s primarily looking at the students’ needs,” Kilber says. “We are play-based but we do that in a way that focuses on the students’ emotional and social needs. We build them a solid foundation for their future academic success.”

Niki Fabian teaches primary school which includes K-2. She currently has eight students.

Francisa Cerritos teaches intermediate school which is grades 3-5. Her ten students range in age from eight to nine years old. “We practice academic skills, social skills and dependent skills which means life skills such as picking up after yourself,” says Cerritos. “This fall we will be taking a field trip to the Navajo County Fair.”

Lane Meier teachers middle/junior high school which is grades 6-8. She has 12 students who are “creating a community in the classroom,” says Meier. “I teach with conversation and help the students get started by learning each others’ names.”

Kim Lahner is the certified special education high school teacher who has 13 students, ages 14 to 19 years of age. “Right now we are working on job skills as well as academics,” says Lahner. “We help the students meet the state requirements to obtain their diploma. And, I work closely with Anita on their job shadows because these experiences often turn into employment opportunities.”

Anita Margeson is the high school transition specialist who works in tandem with Lahner.  “My job is to help students prepare for employment and independent living,” says Margeson. “About half of my students are already enrolled in Northland Pioneer College in preparation for a future career. All of our students participate in year-long job shadowing.”

“We have 12 to 15 local businesses that work with us on our job shadow program,” adds Kline. “Pet Allies, Samurai Sam’s restaurant and Alpha-Omega Sports & Physical Therapy are just a few.”

Last but not least is principal Mary B. Kline who has many years of experience in education and is also a licensed speech pathologist.

She has worked as a director of special education and been an assistant superintendent in the White Mountain Apache Tribe school system.

“I also have a son with Down's Syndrome which has helped me understand the parent side of things,” says Kline. “Navigating the special education system can be overwhelming and I understand that on a very personal level.”

Reach the reporter at

lsingleton@wmicentral.com

Laura Singleton is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering Show Low city government, business and education.

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