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The IDEAL School of Manhattan Provides an Inclusive Learning Environment with a Focus on Social Justice

The IDEAL School of Manhattan Provides an Inclusive Learning Environment with a Focus on Social Justice

At this inclusive, independent school on the Upper West Side, children with special needs learn alongside their neurotypical peers.

The IDEAL School of Manhattan, a coed, independent school on the Upper West Side provides an inclusive learning environment for its students. Plus, with a focus on social justice and service learning, students learn the importance of celebrating everyone's differences. 

"Both my children have a real strong understanding of people’s differences…and how everybody is stronger when they’re all working together,” says Jeff Frank, father of Milo, a fifth-grader, and Eira, a first-grader, who are enrolled at The IDEAL School of Manhattan, located on the Upper West Side. He credits their understanding to the school’s community and educational philosophy.

The IDEAL School is an inclusive, coed, independent school for kindergarten through 12th grades. It was founded by three families of children with Down syndrome who wanted their children to learn alongside neurotypical peers, according to Joseph Kemp, director of communications for The IDEAL School.  

While neither of Frank’s children have Individualized Education Programs, he says they both needed a little extra instruction, which they weren’t getting at their previous school. When he and his wife were looking for a new school for their children, “IDEAL became an ideal choice because we really enjoyed the idea of having an individualized learning center, so every child is working at their own pace regardless of their obstacles or their learning needs,” Frank says.

The IDEAL School of Manhattan reinforces the message of inclusivity through its social justice and service learning programs. “Inclusion becomes, essentially, a civil rights issue, so I think it makes sense that their social justice curriculum is very much at the center of their emphasis on inclusion,” Frank says. “All the messages that you would teach in inclusion about respect, about communication, about cooperation, all of those things lend themselves to the social justice curriculum. …It teaches children that they have to support each other and be allies even when the issue isn’t affecting them directly.” And it’s something he says his children have internalized.

“Even more so than my wife’s and my appreciation for IDEAL, I think my children love it most. They look forward to going to school every day,” Frank says. “When my son first visited IDEAL, he walked away saying, ‘I feel like these children are just like me, these are my people.’”
 

Main image: Jeff Frank says his sons, Milo (left) and Eira, are thriving in the inclusive setting of The IDEAL School of Manhattan.
Courtesy Jeff Frank