Renovated Classroom Provides Setting to Teach Life Skills and More

Cuyahoga Heights Schools have embarked on new, innovative projects thanks to its partnership with the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center’s (CVCC) Career Technical Education (CTE) program. The CTE Partnership provides grants for local schools, like Cuyahoga Heights, to fund exciting initiatives that create student opportunities.

Most recently, the district used CTE grant funds to remodel a former classroom into a state-of-the-art life skills learning space for middle and high school students with intellectual disabilities. The renovated classroom contains real-world elements like a washer and dryer, oven, dishwasher, and day bed. This allows students to gain hands-on experience with practical daily living skills to prepare them for independent living after graduation. 

“By providing an immersive, practical learning environment, the renovated classroom is helping fulfill the potential of every student,” said George Burich, Cuyahoga Heights’ director of pupil services and assistant principal for grades 6-12 . “We’re grateful to the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center for making this possible and helping us equip our students for success.”

The renovation began at the start of the 2022-2023 school year following development of a plan by a team of school administrators, treasurer, intervention specialist, and maintenance staff. The team selected all the appliances, flooring materials, and cabinets to meet ADA requirements and ensure the classroom met the needs of students with varying disabilities. The maintenance staff began renovations during the last week of the school year and worked throughout the summer to finish the room by August.

Since the start of the 2023-24 school year, The students have used the kitchen to cook delicious treats and other dishes. They use  the washer and dryer to launder jerseys for physical education classes and aprons for art students. In addition to using the different appliances, the students have practiced their social skills, by inviting school staff and community members to visit and enjoy a sweet treat. They enjoy making coffee for their teachers and greeting visitors from around the building. The school’s occupational and speech therapists also conduct various activities and lessons in the space to meet the students' individual needs. 

In appreciation for the grant and classroom remodeling, the students welcomed David Mangas, superintendent of the Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, on January 23 to showcase their classroom and share some homemade cookies with him. 

“Thanks to collaborative partnerships like this one, we are able to provide innovative learning opportunities that make a real difference in the lives of our students,” said Burich. Plans for the room include more cooking and collaborating with other teachers, staff, and students to create a community-based learning environment. 

“I can remember thinking back to my first days as a teacher here in Cuyahoga Heights, dreaming about creating a space that was functional and practical for our students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to use to practice life skills and help them transform into contributing members of society,” said Intervention Specialist Elena Scotton. “Now, that dream is a reality. The students are thriving in every aspect of independent living and are truly learning so much by interacting with the various components of our new classroom. Many moments come up daily where we can break tasks down and help our students problem-solve to come up with solutions. Giving our students a classroom environment like this one has allowed us to truly enhance their learning and continue to reach new heights.”

Picture #1: Students learn to make a bed using the new furniture in the renovated resource room.  

Picture #2: New resource room kitchen area.

Picture #3: Another view of the new kitchen area. 

Picture #4: New washer and dryer.

Picture #5: View of the old room prior to renovation.

Picture #6: View of the old room prior to renovation.

Picture #7: Cuyahoga Valley Career Center Superintendent Dave Mangus visits Cuyahoga Heights to celebrate the opening of the new resource room on January 23.