By Jim Newell
The Paint Creek Elementary cafeteria is what one would expect at an elementary school: kids sitting together, eating and laughing, tripping over backpacks and hanging up their coats. Walking over to hug one another and the parents and teachers nearby.
But last Wednesday was a little more colorful than most days.
Across the district, the students, teachers, administrators, support staff and parents wore fun, funky, colorful socks to show their support for World Down Syndrome Day.
At Paint Creek, the day has a special meaning for special students.
Paint Creek houses the Lake Orion’s CI (Cognitive Impaired) and EI (Emotionally Impaired) programs. About 13 percent of the students at the school are part of special needs programs, higher than any other elementary school, said Principal Lauren Smith.
“This is how we live. For our ‘regular’ students, being around students with disabilities doesn’t phase them,” said Smith, who has been at Paint Creek for 10 years now and has seen firsthand how the kids work and play together.
“They just grow up with inclusion. They don’t grow up with the prejudices that older kids and people may have,” Smith said, as students came up to her in the cafeteria to give her hugs before heading back to class.
Waldon Middle School houses the CI classes, which many of the Paint Creek students will attend.
March 21 was selected as World Down Syndrome Day because 3/21 represents those with Down Syndrome, who have a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21, according to information on the district website.
LOCS parent Kristie Lang, whose son Blake has Down Syndrome, campaigned for sock day in the district.
Many people in the district supported Down Syndrome Awareness Day by wearing crazy socks and some raised money to support Down Syndrome organizations.