A community school makeover was officially unveiled on July 7 at ReLife School in Puyallup, a program of Puget Sound Educational Service District designed to address the academic and behavioral needs of students (grades 2-12) with significant social, emotional and behavioral disabilities.
Community volunteer designers and partners – including Coldwell Banker Bain of Tacoma, University Place Refuse, Scott Coatings, and Associated Warehouse – worked hard for months collecting and designing new classrooms and other areas for ReLife School. Each designer took ownership of a classroom, locker, kitchen, etc, and added personal touches like coats, shoes, food, and more. Makeover activities included:
- installation of new carpet, paint, signage, shelves, supplies, etc.;
- development of a new sensory gym where students can go to deescalate, improve sensory motor, sensory perception and thinking skills though specific exercises, games and activities;
- enhancement of the large motor room with punching bags, proper gloves, etc., so that students have a place to release intense feelings in an appropriate way;
- installation of a completely stocked library; and
- planting gardens under each classroom window to encourage care by the students who will nurture them.
The unveiling brought together many friends of the project, including Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Glenna Gallo; Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor; and the Riverside Fire Department. ReLife teachers gathered in front of the school as the University Place Presbyterian Church choir sang. Everyone yelled, “Move that school bus!” and teachers ran through a human “high-five tunnel” to the front door. Volunteers and community guests were invited to tour the newly decorated school and meet the staff.
ReLife serves 23 school districts in King, Pierce, and Thurston counties, and currently has 53 students, with 20 on the waiting list. It is the alternative school to all other alternative schools – a school that students attend to support their unique needs and provide them supports that most other schools do not have in place.
The ReLife model works: 80-90 percent of students experience a positive outcome after their time at ReLife. That success is in part due to the well trained, caring staff. A ratio of one staff member for about every two students makes it possible to provide the intensity of supports needed.