Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Students at Stanbridge Academy try out the new gymnasium that was funded in-house.
A $50,000 renovation has brought students at Stanbridge Academy a brand-new gymnasium to help students with learning differences continue to develop strong social skills.
The school, located in San Mateo, serves about 100 children with mild to moderate learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, language processing disabilities, ADD/ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome, in grades K-12. The gym now boasts new wood floors, replacing old cement ones, benches, a complete framing makeover and a sectioned-off art area with a kiln for pottery.
“It’s come a long way,” said athletic director Mark Kelley, adding that this has been a project that’s been talked about for almost 14 years, the entirety of his time teaching there. “Everyone gets physical education classes here. The students have mild to moderate learning differences and a lot of them come with a fear of participating in physical education. By year two, they look forward to it.”
Students participate in typical team sports to teach them social skills. They also take nutrition classes, he said.
“The goal is to get them to see what it’s like to live a healthy lifestyle,” Kelley said.
Kelley said the old gym used to look like a dungeon and that the new facility is a lot more practical. He notes this is one of the biggest aesthetic changes at the school since he started there. Part of the renovation included installing professional basketball hoops, Goalrilla basketball systems, nearby the gym. The outdoor court was restriped and repainted.
Four years ago, Kelley created a basketball team and named it the Bulldogs. He’s also started a floor hockey team.
“It’s created an amazing culture,” Kelley said. “Team sports have brought the morale up.”
A Bulldog decal is soon to be installed at the center of the gym floor to highlight the school’s mascot. The school also had a cement bulldog on campus, with no official connection to the mascot until the start of the basketball program.
“Where physical education is dropping off in some public schools, it’s an absolute must for Stanbridge,” he said. “They can enjoy it here even if they got laughed at or teased in the past.”
The biggest roadblock for their athletic teams is that they have to combine grade levels to play typical teams since Stanbridge doesn’t have enough students or talent from either the junior high or high school individually to have separate teams. They end up playing mostly junior high school teams but, on occasion, high school teams as well. Currently, the school has mostly 12-game season scrimmages.
Kelley said the school always welcomes other schools to play against their combined grade 7-12 aged athletic teams.
“It’s a special place,” Kelley said.
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