Request No. 2: $2.5 million in continued funding for the expansion of Kennedy Krieger’s LEAP special education school and programs.
- In the FY 2023 budget, Maryland allocated $2.5 million to begin needs assessment and architectural planning for the LEAP renovation.
- As presented last fiscal year, we are now respectfully requesting the second and final $2.5 million from the state of Maryland to continue this work to completion.
- Kennedy Krieger will contribute $10 million of its own funds to the project.
A Unique Educational Program
Kennedy Krieger’s LEAP Program, one of our four special education schools, serves students 5 to 21 years old from across Maryland. Each student has a severe designated educational disability and has been referred to Kennedy Krieger School Programs by their local school system. (LEAP stands for Lifeskills and Education for Students with Autism and Other Pervasive Behavioral Challenges.)
As recently as 20 years ago, before LEAP was established, Maryland’s students with complex disabilities were often separated from their families and sent out of state to residential facilities, at great expense to Maryland, and distress to their families. LEAP was established to allow these students to continue living with their families while attending school.
Publicly funded and privately run, LEAP is accredited by the Maryland State Department of Education.
Most of the program’s students have autism spectrum disorder and/or severe cognitive and behavioral challenges. Each requires a highly structured environment that meets their academic, communication, social, behavioral and medical needs, with designated areas for individual and therapeutic instruction as well as sensory and behavioral breaks.
LEAP’s students also need a high level of individual instruction, and therefore a high staff-to-student ratio. A typical LEAP classroom serves only five to seven students, with just as many—if not more—adult staff members in the room.
LEAP’s buildings were not originally designed to serve school children, let alone those with complex disabilities and behavioral challenges. The current LEAP physical space has at times been an obstacle to effectively implementing our best instructional and behavioral practices.
Many students were referred to the LEAP Program because of their challenging behaviors, including aggression and selfinjury. Providing separate spaces within, or close to, their classrooms to safely manage these behaviors, while keeping them at the school, is essential.
We ask the state for continued funding to help us renovate and expand our LEAP buildings to safely and effectively accommodate more students.