Creating Options for Our Students

This week, as we prepare for the beginning of a new school year, we renew our commitment to our Catholic faith and to one another, striving to better know, love and serve Our Lord in all that we do.

By: Sr. Bernadette B.V.M., Superintendent of Catholic Schools

With over 17,000 students returning to the classroom in the Diocese of Arlington this fall, among those will be new students participating in our Options Program. So, what is the Options Program? At its core, Options provides a quality-modified inclusive education in a Catholic Christian environment for students with intellectual disabilities. The goal is to maximize students’ potential while enabling their independence.

The Diocese of Arlington is proud to announce the addition of three newly formed Options Programs into our schools. Beginning this fall,  Bishop O’Connell High School, Holy Spirit Elementary School and Saint Charles Early Learning Center will join Paul VI High School, Saint John Paul the Great High School and Saint Mark Elementary School in providing a Catholic education for students with intellectual disabilities.

While these students with intellectual disabilities will have some separate classes, there will be as much integration into the total life of the school as possible.  Spiritual, academic and social activities will be part of each student’s experience.

While each of the six schools has a program, no two programs will be exactly the same.  Parents interested in a Catholic education for a student with intellectual disabilities should contact the individual schools.

Diocesan Coordinator of Special Needs for the Office of Catholic Schools, Diane Elliott, explains:

“The value of this program is not only in providing faith-based education to children with special needs, but also to help all students be aware that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God.”

While showing compassion and support for life at all stages during his papacy, Pope Francis, too, has given special attention to the sick and persons with disabilities:

Pope Francis' General Audience

…Let us think of the many that Jesus wanted to meet, especially people marked by illness and disability, in order to heal them and restore them to full dignity. It is very important that these same people become witnesses to a new attitude, that we can call the culture of encounter.

Options Programs Sr. Bernadette

Precisely because of their fragility, their limitations, the sick and disabled can become witnesses of the encounter: the encounter with Jesus, which opens them to life and faith, and to encounter others, with the community. Indeed, only those who recognize their own fragility, their own limitations, can build fraternal and solid relationships in the Church and in society.

As we begin the 2015-2016 school year, may the Lord bless all students, faculty and staff and guide us ever closer to His Sacred Heart.

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