SNOWFLAKE — In January, Nicole Alexander of Snowflake and Margo Parker founded the White Mountain Academy for Gifted Individuals. Nicole’s husband, David Alexander, is the CEO and principal of the new school.

The private, non-profit school is located in downtown Snowflake. It is designed specifically for kindergarten through 12th grade students with special needs such as cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome or autism.

“We will accept any students with a current Individual Education Plan (IEP) with any disabilities,” says David Alexander. “However, we cater to students with severe disabilities and can enroll up to 30 students.”

The small school is situated in a 6,000 square-foot residential-style home on about a quarter acre of land. The backyard will have a garden area and has plenty of room for additional outside activities.

Language arts, reading, mathematics and art classrooms are already functional, but the staff has plans to adds more classrooms. “We are also working on setting up a sensory room which allows students to go in and relax and desensitize if they are feeling overwhelmed or experiencing sensory overload,” says David. “This summer, we will be renovating space in a separate building on campus to create a music room.”

Since opening on January 7, the White Mountain Academy for Gifted Individuals has enrolled five students, some of whom know David from his time as principal at Lexington Life Academy in Show Low.

Alexander has been teaching individuals with special needs for 18 years. He holds a master’s degree in special education and school administration.He is currently employed with the Snowflake-Taylor Unified School District in the Special Education Program (SPED) and plans to fulfill his contract there by finishing the school year.

“I have really enjoyed my time with Lexington and in the public schools, but I saw a need for more services for individuals with special needs,” explains David. “Public schools have some limitations due to their size, lack of funding or lack of resources. We are in a unique and fortunate position to offer another option to the larger, public school setting.”

David and Nicole and Parker named the school “White Mountain Academy for Gifted Individuals” to let the community know that they serve students all over the White Mountains.

“And, most importantly, we feel that all individuals and kids have gifts that they can give to the community and ways that they can be productive members of society,” explains David. “It’s our job to find those gifts and individual talents in each person.”

“Through providing a smaller learning environment with the same specialized staff, I hope to focus on the individual needs of these students,” David said. “Some students need more assistance with basic social skills and daily living skills, as well as academics.”

The school’s mission compliments that goal by providing a safe environment “to practice real life situations so that our students can become more independent.”

What’s next?

“Our biggest goal for these individuals and their families is to determine what’s next in their stage of life. What will they be equipped to do when they leave here? Can they go to college? Can they live independently? Do they have social skills and daily living skills that they didn’t have before? Whatever growth means for them is what we are dedicated to working on,” asks David.

Funding for school tuition is available through the Empowerment Scholarship of Arizona (ESA), according to David. “This state program allows parents to choose a private school best suited for their child,” he said.

“Although the White Mountain Academy of Gifted Individuals is a non-profit corporation through the Arizona Corporation Commission, we are working on becoming a 501©(3).”

The school is open 9 a.m. — 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and follows much of the same calendar as the Snowflake-Taylor and Show Low Unified School Districts. In fact, they are on Spring Break this week, just like many other districts in the White Mountains.

The school is also licensed to provide transportation for students which is very helpful for parents, according to David.

For more information, call 928-940-0258 email David Alexander at whitemountainagi@gmail.com. You can also follow them on Facebook.

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.

(2) comments

SgtMike

This is great news for the Special Needs community. Thank you & way to go guys

Bad road ahead

Always a welcome asset to a community!!

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