CHIPLEY - Washington County School District is preparing to open a new school.

Tentatively called Washington Academy of Varying Exceptionalities (WAVE), the school for exceptional student education (ESE) students three years old through 12th grade will be housed in the former fifth-grade building at Roulhac Middle School.

"This school will provide a choice, a place where resources are focused on kids with those needs," said Director of Students and ESE Services Elizabeth Arnold. "We are combining resources in the district so that teachers that have a passion for students with disabilities can provide needed assistance in a rich learning environment."

The school has already enrolled 37 students for the upcoming school year, with eight coming from Marianna's Hope School. The school has its own administrator, speech therapist, behavioral specialist, and a number of ESE-dedicated teachers and paraprofessionals.

Monday afternoon, crews were onsite at the six-classroom hall painting walls, waxing the floors and preparing to move-in furniture.

Fourteen-year ESE teacher Connie Crutchfield is one of the teachers soon to work at the school.

"I think its going to be a good thing for the area, the county," she said. "We're going to be able to provide what we haven't been able to provide the kids - more intensive centered things, things that apply to them specifically."

Some of the conversation stems from lowered enrollment. The school district has grappled in recent years to sustain its enrollment numbers. Earlier in the year, school district officials reported the state Department of Education predicted numbers would continue to tumble; more specifically, by 85 students in the upcoming school year.

Having a special needs program for students with more involved cognitive disabilities, is one way to boost the enrollment number.

Arnold emphasized that the school is still a school choice option for parents. That is, just because a child qualifies to enroll in the school, doesn't mean that parents must send their student to the school.

"The bottom line is the parent has the right to say that their children will or will not go there, it still requires parental consent," she said.

The benefits for students include: smaller classroom sizes allow for more one-to-one teacher-student interaction, ESE professionals will work together in close proximity to meet students specific needs, and adaptive physical education or music classes will be offered.

Each classroom will have an interactive touch-screen board and five computer stations. And, although the school is self-contained, there will be opportunities for middle and high school students to interact with their peers outside of the school during lunch and, some, for elective classes.

Additionally, Chipley High School has a credit program for students between 18 and 22 that will provide mentors, reading buddies and teacher assistants to WAVE students, Arnold said.

The school district is currently looking to fill one teacher position and three paraprofessional positions. Go online to www.wcsdschools.com to apply.