Special Needs School Opens in Circle Pines: Karner Blue

Karner BlueIt’s back-to-school time in Minnesota and, for 90 lucky students and 80 staff members, “school” is a brand new facility. Karner Blue, where every aspect has been considered and tweaked to provide for the needs of K through 8th grade students with autism and other disorders, threw open its doors last week.

If you tour the school the one thing that stands out over everything else is the number of indoor swings, or attachments for swings, scattered throughout the school.  Swinging is a part of sensory integration therapy for autistic children. It helps them feel more in balance, it relaxes and soothes them and helps increase concentration.

Karner Blue also features sensory rooms – and these are really cool. The kids can actually change the wall color in these rooms, listen to music and do other things that help improve sensory input.

The architecture is another cutting-edge aspect of Karner Blue, with curved hallways to help kids remain focused on what’s in front of them instead of at the other end of the hall or the school.

Special needs children must be referred to Karner Blue, part of Northeast Metro Intermediate School District 916, by one of 12 school districts. These include:

  • Centennial
  • Columbia Heights
  • Forest Lake
  • Fridley
  • Mahtomedi
  • Mounds View
  • North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale
  • Roseville
  • South Washington County
  • Spring Lake Park
  • Stillwater
  • White Bear Lake

 The home district pays the costs of bussing students to Karner Blue, which is located on 95th Avenue NE in Circle Pines.

Parents have been ringing the phone off the hook at district headquarters, trying to enroll their children and unaware of the referral process.

“They can’t just enroll on their own; that’s the hard thing for parents to really reconcile,” 916 Superintendent Connie Hayes tells ABC Newspapers. “Many of them are looking for good services for their child, and for whatever reason, they’re not satisfied with where they’re at, and so it’s frustrating for them when we can’t just enroll them directly into the school.”

The über- innovative Karner Blue will have a total enrollment of 90 students this semester and employs 80 staff members. Eventually, enrollment will be capped at 130 students.

The school takes its name, by the way, from a small blue butterfly, native to Minnesota, that is currently endangered and requires nurturing and care.

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