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Bay Times and Record Observer: Franchot visits Sweet Bay Magnolia Academy

STEVENSVILLE — Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot visited Sweet Bay Magnolia Academy Wednesday, May 15, to tour the private school and discuss the successes and challenges in its approach to education and special needs students.

Among the various therapies offered are individualized and program wide applied behavior analysis guidance and supervision, intensive speech therapy, and occupational therapy and sensory integration.

The academy also limits classroom sizes to an average of five students, an average student to teacher ratio of three to one, and a curriculum with a focus on science, technology, engineering, art and math.

“I support any effort to look at this school more as a template for the rest of the state,” said Franchot. “There so much money being spent by the state and I love the idea of being able to justify state support for schools like this down the road. We’re sitting in a small ocean of cash right now, but we need to move schools like this up on the list.”

While Sweet Bay Magnolia Academy boasts many supporters, the costs associated with being a historic building often presents issues with space and funds for expansion. According to Amelia Foxwell, the school’s CEO, the need is only growing with more special needs kids looking for such therapy options.

“Our building and having funding space that will work work for these kids and modifying it further is the most expensive thing,” said Foxwell. “The school paid $280,000 for a sprinkler system from the profits of the therapy agents. Everything that is done here and the therapists themselves is paid for from that source as well.”

Upon finding a school with such services, parents routinely brave long commutes to ensure their children are enrolled with one mother on the tour admitting her family relocated to the county to be closer to Magnolia Academy.

Working with the school is Abintra Breakthrough Services. While Abintra is not based in a school program it does provide consulting and sub-contracting services to school programs as well as private state agencies. It provides in-office intensive ABA programs and accept most insurance.

For Jen Kelley, the school’s director of therapy, finding new ways to engage students involves thinking outside the box, like a room complete with moon bounce that is far more than just a game.

“That room works the gross motor movements because many children with autism have low muscle tone,” said Kelley. “Students are given specific tasks to build their core muscles to increase balance and coordination. We don’t want the kids to know they’re getting therapy, so rooms like that build those large muscle groups.”

Finally during the visit, Franchot awarded the school with a citation for their “individualized education experience and their invaluable programs.”

Franchot went further to say that their intensive therapies are among some of reasons why the location draws families from the surrounding five counties.

More information on the Sweet Bay Magnolia Academy is available at 443-249-3368 or at www.mcardlecen

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