Founders of Highlands School elect officers, seek accreditation


A story July 2 in the Harford edition of The Sun gave an incorrect date for an informational meeting about Highlands School, a private institution to open this fall for Harford County children with learning disabilities. The meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Christ Our King Presbyterian Church at Emmorton and Lexington roads in Bel Air.

The Sun regrets the error.

Founders of the Highlands School, a private institution scheduled to open this fall in Harford County for children with learning disabilities, have elected officers and submitted an accreditation plan to the state Board of Education.

"We plan to receive certification from the board by September," said reading specialist Beth Maahs of Fallston, one of the organizers.

The specialized school will serve students ages 9 through 14 who have attention deficit disorder, a minimal brain dysfunction that can cause compulsive and disruptive behavior or learning disabilities, which are thought to be caused by central nervous dysfunction. Such disorders can make someone distractible and disorganized and experience difficulty in learning to read and write.

"Often these kids fall through the cracks in public schools," said Mrs. Maahs, who has a daughter, now grown, with learning disabilities. "We feel with small classes and highly trained personnel, we will be able to meet these kids' needs and get them back on track."

With a low teacher-student ratio, specialized tutoring and occupational and speech therapists on staff, Mrs. Maahs said one-on-one attention at the Highlands School is guaranteed. She hopes to attract 40 students this year to fill four classrooms.

"Our school is a little different," said reading specialist Vicki Whitaker, one of several Bel Air residents who helped plan the curriculum. "We're going to find out the strengths of each child and then teach through those strengths -- so they'll learn what their problems are and how to compensate for them.

"The goal of the Highlands is to get these kids back into the public schools after a reasonable period of time."

The nonprofit school will be in the old Highland Elementary School on Highland Road in Street, in the northern end of the county. Mrs. Maahs said she expects to sign a lease soon with the Highland Community Association, which administers the building for the county.

The Highlands will be one of a handful of schools in Maryland that is specifically designed for children with attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities. The Odyssey School in Baltimore and the Jemicy School in Owings Mills target students who are diagnosed with dyslexia, a reading perception disorder.

Highlands also will focus on children with language processing disorders, which may cause them to have difficulty understanding vocabulary and following directions, Mrs. Maahs said.

Tuition for the Highlands School is $10,700 a year. At Jemicy, it is almost $16,000. The cost at Odyssey is $14,500.

"The tuition will cover all of the operating and administrative costs of the school, as well as any special activities," said Ed Eliason, who was recently elected treasurer of the Highlands School.

Other officers elected were: president, Joanne Parrott; vice president, Wayne Tapscott; and secretary, Pat Bonney.

Parents interested in enrolling their child at the Highlands School are invited to attend an informational meeting at 7:30 p.m. July 17 in the Christ Our King Presbyterian Church at Emmorton and Lexington roads in Bel Air. For further information, call Alice Welsh at (410) 569-2477.

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