Our school is dedicated to educating students with neurocognitive disorders, targeting both individual social needs and academic excellence. The program is designed as a safe learning environment with a specific focus on social, organizational, and visual-spatial deficits. The opportunities and tools for success are an integral part of every class, group, and volunteer setting. The program includes grade-level academics in small classes to allow for individual attention and increased opportunity for success in those courses. This is a unique program specifically planned with these students in mind.
The staff to student ratio is 1:8 to start in certain subjects, with increasing independence as the years progress. Details of the program and the staffing needs follow. The school provides a 180-day full academic curriculum and has been approved as a Nonpublic School by the State of California and is accredited by the Western Association of School and Colleges (WASC).
Program organization that includes frequent feedback
In an effort to provide a unique educational experience suited to the needs of our students, the Orion Academy operates in six-week sessions, rather than the traditional quarter, trimester, or semester system. Students and their parents will meet with faculty to review progress at the end of each six-week session. The students learn in small groups that remain consistent over the year. Students will have the opportunity to interact and learn with the entire Orion community in social skills group, activity classes and P.E., yet the bulk of the educational day will be with the same core students. This is designed to maximize the development of social competency in a controlled and less anxiety-provoking environment. This system provides students with an opportunity to have a concentrated learning experience leading to mastery and the ability to move on to new subjects with a sense of success. The program teaches to the California Standards and Benchmarks and strives to prepare students for college entrance.
Academics Plus Social and Life Skills
Orion strives to offer coursework that is both college preparatory and unique to the needs of NLD and Asperger’s students. In addition to offering basic academic courses needed for graduation, Orion offers a trademark course in pragmatic language skills and specialized programming for:
- Training in social skills – an integral part of the Orion program
- Independent living skills through the Transitions courses in 11thand 12th grades
- Empathy development through the unique Orion program of dog obedience training
- Community involvement through volunteer opportunities
- Homebridging program that supports the academic, social skills, sensory integration and physical education programs
- Unique to Orion and designed with our students in mind, all students are required to complete a “Personal Project” for each six-week session. The projects are individual learning experiences that are developed by the students with the help of a mentor teacher. As a team they will collaborate on the project and produce a finished product that can be presented in some format to the Orion community. This program is developed to augment the regular course material.
Technology as an Organizing Tool and a Unique Focus for Learning
While Orion Academy provides a full academic program leading to a high school diploma, the program provides a highly structured learning environment; the daily schedule is highlighted by the integration into every aspect of the curriculum of both technology and social learning. Students are required to provide their own laptop computer (currently an Apple MacBook Pro) and use that computer in class each day. Class work and homework utilize the laptop computer and students are taught a specific system for information storage and transfer that improves their ability to keep track of information. In addition, the school uses the Promethean Interactive White Board system, allowing information from the whiteboards to be directly transferred to the student’s computers, reducing the note taking requirements in certain classes.
The relationship between the home and school is vital and central to the Orion student’s success. Parents also serve a crucial function. Parents are expected to attend the Parent Teacher Organization meetings as often as possible, especially during the student’s first year at Orion and are required as a condition of admission to have one parent (or parent representative, i.e. grandparent or other adult) at every Community Meeting /Personal Project presentation. All parents are required to attend the September Mandatory Parent Information meeting. At the end of each school year Orion Academy conducts an Annual End of the Year Awards Dinner, at a local restaurant or Country Club. This is a very special event and attendance is required for all students. Most families also attend and extended family is welcome.
In addition, families of Orion students will be asked to contribute their time and talents to the success of the program. Opportunities for volunteer activities or fundraising are presented at the beginning of each session.
Orion uses a state-of-the-art Student Information System (SIS) called PowerSchool. In addition to the scheduling, grading and attendance features used by Orion teaching staff, PowerSchool provides parent and student access to this information on a login protected web page. This level of access allows parents and students to view all class assignments and attendance history via the Internet at any time.
The program hours are Monday-Thursday from 8:50 AM – 3:45* PM and Friday from 9:00AM – 1:40 PM. (*Seniors are dismissed at 3:30 every day, all other students have 15 minutes of chores).