In 2005, three families were looking for an elementary school in New York City for their young children. Like many parents, they sought a school that provided a strong academic foundation in a nurturing, supportive environment, that recognized their children’s many strengths while helping them to overcome any challenges, that developed their sense of character, community, and social responsibility, and that fostered empathy and emotional intelligence. These families believed that their children would flourish with the small class sizes, individualized attention, and commitment to the arts that are the hallmarks of independent schools.
Although their sons and daughters were quite different from one another, they shared one characteristic in common—each child had Down syndrome. These families were thus looking for an independent school that offered differentiated instruction, that would celebrate each child’s unique identity, and that would welcome their children into the community. Unable to find such a school, they were inspired to start one.
Thus, the idea for a truly diverse and inclusive independent school with differentiated and individualized instruction to meet the needs and support the identities of all types of learners emerged. The founding families partnered with educators committed to creating a school that teaches and reaches children of all backgrounds, socioeconomic levels, races, genders, cultures, sexual orientations, and religions, as well as a broad range of learning styles, readiness levels, and abilities. The IDEAL School of Manhattan is built on this philosophy of inclusion and is committed to extending the definition of diversity in education to include all learners. The school’s core principles and the foundation of its mission are built into its name and acronym: Inclusion, Diversity, Excellence, Acceptance, and Leadership.
The founders’ vision of a school that is as diverse and dynamic as New York City itself has become a reality. The IDEAL School opened its doors in 2006 with 20 students in kindergarten to second grade. Over the past decade, IDEAL has grown from elementary school, to middle school, and now to high school, with almost 200 students. This year, IDEAL’s first seniors will graduate high school, each continuing their educational journeys on diverse paths that are as unique as they are, each with the skills and motivation to be leaders in their communities, and each dedicated to building a more just and equitable world.