Owasso will soon be home to a new school for special needs students.
King’s Grove School, set to open this fall, will serve as a private Christian academy educating children across the community with moderate to severe disabilities.
Founder Julie Paul, a mother of four children, got the idea to start the school about two years ago after struggling to find the right classroom setting to meet the needs of her 8-year-old son, Jesse, diagnosed with nonverbal autism.
“Through his journey, we found the care that we needed in several areas, but when it came to schooling, we just couldn’t find a place for him to go,” Paul said.
Paul took to homeschooling Jesse for a short time until she picked up a book, “Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child,” which provided helpful strategies for adopting a classical Christian education to teach and inspire students with special needs.
“As we were working through this curriculum, I thought, ‘You know, this could work in a classroom setting,’” Paul said. “The Lord just kind of gave me the clarity to be able to flesh out a plan of what this school would look like and we just started from there.”
She formed an exploratory committee about a year ago that shaped the mission and goals of the school based on Biblical principles. They focus on three foundational pillars to meet the sensory and developmental needs of students: Academics, Therapy and Community.
King’s Grove’s classical syllabus is specially tailored to each individual student and comprises math, phonics, reading, Latin, cognitive functioning, sequencing, penmanship and individual goals, to name a few.
“Our curriculum is great and it’s broken down and modified for kids so that they can take it in bite-sized pieces,” Paul said. “We’re looking at the overarching lifetime education of a person, rather than just, ‘We need to get through these workbooks this year.’”
Likewise, the curriculum integrates physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as manners and etiquette training, into its daily regimen. Additionally, full-time professional therapists will be on hand to assist students during their one-on-one sessions.
“They’re preparing (the students) beforehand with exercises that will ready their mind for work,” Paul said. “They’re observing them in the classroom to see what modifications we need to make for their success … so that they can self-sooth, so that they can self-regulate.”
Additionally, King’s Grove places a strong emphasis on community. Paul said her goal is to bring special needs students and their families together to support each other and ultimately become an active part of society.
“We want to show Owasso how to integrate and live side-by-side with a diverse community, and part of that diversity is persons with special needs,” Paul said. “We want to just show our community their intrinsic value for service, for work and just for friendship … we want relationship, and that’s important to us.”
This vision for the school led Paul to create the name, “King’s Grove,” with the students representing trees designed to naturally grow and produce given the right conditions, congregated together to form a flourishing ecosystem under the direction of the Lord, or King.
“You have to really specifically plant them in good, fertile soil,” she said, “You have to tend to them, they have to be around like-minded people who are for their growth, who are for their enrichment, and that’s where the name came from.”
King’s Grove, starting on Sept. 2, will operate on a four-day academic work week, Monday-Thursday, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., with Friday serving as an enrichment day in which students learn through movement, music, manners and art.
Classes will be temporarily held at Rejoice Christian Schools’ old kindergarten building, located on 106th Street by Rejoice Church just south of the football field, although King’s Grove is not directly affiliated with RCS. Paul said she hopes to find a more permanent location as the program progresses.
Currently, she has enrolled around 10 students in two classes: a primary class for children ages 6-10, and a secondary class for children ages 11-16. She plans to add a new class of five students each year going forward, with a maximum of seven per classroom.
“What we’re hoping to do is forge the path in private Christian education for special needs and become a model of how to do this,” Paul said, “so that other communities can come in and see what we’re doing and then try to replicate that on whatever scale they feel is appropriate.”
King’s Grove will host a vision and fundraising launch meeting on Thursday, June 27, at 6:30 pm. at the RCS auditorium for locals interested in learning more about the program and to participate in a silent auction to raise money for the pilot.
For more information or to help support the school through giving or volunteering, call or text 918-814-1085 or visit kingsgroveschool.com.