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 Friendship School Welcomes Visitors

Friendship School opened its doors to more than two dozen visitors during its eighth annual open house this week, giving parents, educators, and community members an up-close look around the unique campus.

Friendship School, located in Imperial Beach, serves students between the ages of 3 and 22 who have multiple severe disabilities and health impairments. Students receive specialized instruction with specific goals based on their individual needs. They also have access to speech, language, and hearing specialists as well as a psychologist, school nurse, occupational therapist, and assistive technology specialist.

Friendship School is operated by the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) in affiliation with the six school districts in the South County Special Education Local Plan Area. It shares a campus with Imperial Beach Charter School.

Visitors toured the five-classroom school, talking with Principal Diana Lynn, and meeting students, teachers, and support staff. They checked out the award-winning Assistive Technology and Sensory Integration program, which includes a sensory room, and viewed the sensory wall and current events board. They experienced the day-to-day activities and hands-on academic lessons.

Lynn hosts the open house to give the community an opportunity to learn more about the school, where the goal is to meet each student’s individual needs by enhancing their learning, everyday lives, and promoting their independence with exceptional services for exceptional students.

Denise Villezcas and Rick Quintana, school psychologists with San Ysidro School District, visited Friendship School for the first time Thursday at the suggestion of their director, and they came away equipped with new resources and new knowledge about services and programs available to students.

“It’s good to know our options,” Quintana said. “We learned about an IEP (Individualized Education Program) toolkit created by a teacher here that will help us.”

During the open house, Jerry Fecher took his 14-year-old son, Jerry, on a walk around campus using a gait trainer, with an aide by his side. Fecher said he was uncertain at first about moving his son from a traditional school to Friendship for the 2015-16 school year. But by his second visit, he was convinced that it was the right place for Jerry.

“There is more support here for the medical needs, and we didn’t have to babysit the school,” Fecher said. “It’s been a better fit. The small class size is important for him. And this supports his academic program.”

Fecher appreciates Friendship’s open-door policy for parents, the extensive daily reports, and Lynn’s connection with her students.

“They get to know you and your child really well,” Fecher said. “It makes me feel good.”

Gladys and Mauricio Enriquez also appreciate the close attention to all students, including their 15-year-old daughter Myrna.

“We’re very blessed to be at this school,” Mauricio Enriquez said. “We love the staff, the dedication, the positive outlook. They take their time with all the kids. We’ve seen a lot of advances for Myrna.”