North Salem and McKay high schools received recognition this today, Feb. 21 from the Special Olympics Oregon for their distinction as Unified Champion Schools.
In Salem-Keizer Public Schools, 17 percent of students receive special education services.
SKPS works diligently to meet the needs of all students and families regardless of age, color, ability, marital status, national origin, race, religion or creed, sex or gender, sexual orientation or veteran status.
According to Special Olympics Oregon, a Unified Champion School helps to reduce bullying and exclusion, promote healthy activity and interactions, combat stereotypes and stigma, eliminate hurtful language in school and engages all students in activities that lead to personal growth.
Unified Champion schools in SKPS
Since the 2017-18 school year, Salem-Keizer Public Schools has worked to expand unified programing across the district, with South Salem High School being awarded as the district’s first Unified Champion school in the spring of 2019.
As of February 2023, Salem-Keizer Public Schools has established unified programming in all of the district’s high schools and eight middle schools, and began the expansion to elementary schools during the 2021-22 school year.
In addition, the district offers unified summer programming for both elementary and secondary students across the district.
What does it take to be a unified champion school?
Unified Champion Schools is a movement that aims to change school communities through the power of inclusion, acceptance, and determination. Unified programs pair students with disabilities with peer partners to provide access to sports, leadership and classroom content. In Salem Keizer Public Schools this means classes such as choir, theater and culinary arts.
Programming includes three key aspects:
- Unified sports such as basketball, soccer, kickball, rock climbing and more.
- Inclusive youth leadership.
- Whole school engagement.
“This is a population of students that has been historically separated from their peers,” said Student Services Director Melissa Glover. “Unified programs do more than just unify students in sports and activities. They truly bring the whole school together.”
As Unified Champion Schools, students with and without disabilities are empowered and provided opportunities to safely engage together in athletics, physical education courses, leadership classes, community service projects, school dances and much more.
“The experience of school is about so much more than receiving an education,” said Student Services Instructional Mentor Amanda Burke.
“Whether students are in first grade or about to graduate from high school, Unified helps students build lifelong relationships and develop important skills to be successful, inclusive and welcoming adults.”