BUCKEYE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - One Arizona school district is thinking outside of the box when it comes to educating a group of students often left behind by the education system.

Buckeye Union High School is creating a quality education one student at a time.

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"All kids deserve an education. All kids deserve that experience," said Superintendent Eric Godfrey.

When he says all kids, he's not kidding.

"All kids deserve to have a chance and programs like this give all kids a chance to be successful," he said.

Student Deontrae Thomas is part of the coffee crew of TSW, short for Transition from School to Work program.

On the outside, it may look like any other program, but it's not.

TSW has a coffee car, a store on campus, and even a carwash.

"We see a lot of things. We actually make the food," said Thomas.

You'd never know by looking at the students, but all of them are living with special needs. They are gaining important lessons they'll take with them long after they graduate.

But it's not just Buckeye Union High School. About 10 miles away, just off the interstate sits a one-of-a-kind education facility.

"We are 75% special education on this campus with 190 students here every day," said Dr. Karen Sanders, principal at Buckeye Union High School District's Learning Center. "You're probably not going to find this in the state. I would venture to say it might be hard to find someplace like this in the country."

Sanders has been at the school since the beginning, nearly a decade ago.

"If you can't take of a student, if a student can't be successful on a traditional campus, you have to have a place for them. You don't have a choice. That's your responsibility," said Sanders.

The programs at the campus are so good, more than a dozen other schools send their students to the learning center. But these special programs come at a cost.

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"I see it's challenging. The space over at the Learning Center right now is pretty full because of the needs of the community," said Scott Acton, the exceptional student services director.

There are talks of adding onto the building once again. At the same time, Buckeye, like many other Arizona schools, has to keep a close eye on the bottom dollar.

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"Those are challenges that we face, that the Legislature face (sic), that everyone faces and hopefully we can come together to come up with some solutions that are available for all of us to be successful," Godfrey said.

But the district said it is already prepared for major challenges as the West Valley continues to grow rapidly.

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"I think there's going to be some hard decisions and some really close looks at how we fund schools and what kind of funding we give to provide those experiences that our kids need to be able to be ready at the end of this pathway," Godfrey said.

Whatever the case may be moving forward, the programs at Buckeye Union High School and the Buckeye Learning Center make a significant impact on some of the most vulnerable students in the community.

Nick Valdez sent his high school, Dawson, to the learning center.

"They make him feel good here. They make him feel like he's important," said Valdez. "It does make you feel good, both me and my wife, we see a change in his attitude at home."

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"And now you know I think it's going to be all right. I think he's going to be all right. He's going to make it," Valdez added.

It's the same comments other parents with kids in the learning center told Arizona's Family, including Fred Edwards, who has two children at the school.

"It's helped out greatly because of the fact I had one of my kids that was here, he had some of the most extreme behaviors," said Edwards. "He was the face of just a hardcore teen, and they did not give up on him."

Whatever the future may hold for these programs, district leaders continue to move forward.

"The kids, I love the kids. They're my smile," said Sanders.


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.




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