New school

Cindy Carlson

Photo By meredith j. cooper

Cindy Carlson is the new kid in town. As director of a brand-spanking-new private school, she’s working hard to get the word out about her program, which focuses on kids, grades K-12, with high-functioning autism, Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD—but is open to all students. At the Rose Scott Open Structure School, the classrooms are split into zones. “It’s like a one-room schoolhouse,” Carlson explained, with multiple grade levels learning together in the same room. School starts Sept. 8, and Carlson, who has worked in education for 31 years, said she’s hoping to have about 20 to 30 students enrolled (there are nine so far). The school is not religious, though it is housed in the First Baptist Church. For more info, call 354-3101.

What gave you the idea to open a private school?

I feel like there is a need for alternatives for kids, that all kids don’t thrive in a classroom with 20 or 30 students. I was working at Chico State during the daytime, supervising student teachers—so I was out in the classrooms every day. And at night I worked in a mental-health clinic where I would see kids with ADHD and autism. Those kids were frustrated and needed more choices.

Why focus on autism, Asperger’s and ADHD?

I started out trying to open a school for kids who are gifted with ADD because it runs in my family. Some of my students want to stand up during the lesson. They can do that—or they can sit on a bouncy ball or lie on the couch. I wanted to create a place where when they walked in the door they felt comfortable. My classroom is set up in an open-structure manner. There are different areas, with couches and lamps—so it feels more like a home environment and less institutional.

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Describe how your school works.

K-8 is an open-structure private school and 9-12 is more like the learning community [we had last year]. We sign you up with Hearthstone Home School and then parents basically hire us to home school them.

How did you come up with the name?

I’m always thinking about my 26-year-old son and 22-year-old daughter—what kind of school would they have liked? The school is named after them—Megan Rose and Jesse Scott.

What kind of reaction have you gotten?

My sixth-grade boy—his mom told me, “He would live here if he could.” That’s the kind of compliment that means a lot to me.