New Ga. scholarship gives parents of special needs students school choice

New Ga. scholarship gives parents of special needs students school choice
Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 12:53 PM EDT
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THOMASVILLE, Ga. (WALB) - Parents of special needs kids in Thomasville now have another choice when it comes to their child’s education. A Georgia program allows kids to attend the school that best fits their needs — without costing their parents a pretty penny.

Step ‘n’ Stones is a private school in Thomas County that is designed to educate and rehabilitate children with special social and emotional needs, along with those that are on the autism spectrum. With the assistance of the Georgia Department of Education, parents with kids in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) can now pay little to nothing for education.

“Parents have the opportunity to select for their child to come to Step ‘N’ Stones, and the money that they receive to go to the school system will transfer and follow the students to Step ‘N’ Stones will cover their tuition fees or at least a part of their tuition fees,” Tinika Dismuke, director and founder of Step ‘N’ Stones, said.

The Special Needs Scholarship Program through the Georgia Department of Education is based on the child’s level of need. Kids can also receive scholarships through the Georgia Gold Program, which is money donated from taxpayers to the state to help kids receive an education.

“So it also gives taxpayers a choice. Where do you want to spend your money? You can give it to the state of Georgia, or you can say ‘I’m going to give this money to Step ‘N’ Stones’,” Dismuke said.

Step N’ Stones is entering their second academic year, and the staff says every child at the school receives a unique teaching experience.

“Every child will have an individualized differentiated program that’s for their needs, and specifically to get them to learn the way that they learn for themselves,” Kristin Mackay, Step N’ Stones academic coordinator, said.

Parents can apply for the scholarship program online through the Georgia Department of Education or in person at the school.

“Normally, we get a doctor’s referral, and we look at it and that lets us know what kind of diagnosis that they have and then we go from there,” Michelle Williams, Step N’ Stones director of admissions, said.

“On that website, you can put in your child’s information, it will calculate a form that you then print off, bring to us, and then we can help you with the rest of the steps to help you get this scholarship for your child,” Step N’ Stones Student Services Coordinator Cindy Warren said.

If you’d like more information and the program and how to register for it, click here.