Across the country students are heading back to school this month -- and next Monday is the first day of school for Side by Side's Irene M. Hunt School...and the opening of two new classrooms on its San Anselmo campus!

The Irene M. Hunt School, which serves K-12 students with a wide range of behavioral and emotional challenges, has traditionally accommodated 40 students in four multi-grade classrooms. In response to a persistent waiting list, in spring 2019 the school increased its enrollment to 48 students. However, with the closure of the Timothy Murphy School in San Rafael and the continued reported need for the kind of special education services provided by the Hunt School made further expansion in July 2019 critically necessary.

Our expansion creates space for up to 20 new students and will help ensure that the new students from Timothy Murphy School – who are part of the foster care system and residents of St. Vincent's housing program – as well as students from other schools in the community are able to get the therapeutic education they require. As the Hunt School is now the only non-public school in Marin County that serves students with behavioral and mental health challenges, several of the incoming students from Timothy Murphy School may have had to leave St. Vincent's, if it were not for the expansion.

According to Jonathan Lenz, director of the Marin County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), the expansion of the Irene M. Hunt campus will work to enhance the continuum of special education services in Marin County. “At a time of significant need, we are fortunate to have a proven provider step up to offer services designed to support students with significant social, emotional, and behavioral needs,” he explained.

The expansion significantly increases the scope of the school’s curricular, behavioral and mental health services and brings the proportion of low-income students up from 55% to 60-65%. As always, the program will continue to reflect Side by Side’s commitment to providing critical and comprehensive services that honor the young person’s unique needs and strengths.

“The Irene M. Hunt School is an incredibly vibrant and collaborative school community,” said Jolene Yee, Hunt School Director. “We’re excited to welcome the new students and help them meet their educational needs so that they can thrive academically and socially.”