School is a normal part of childhood. For children undergoing treatment, school can offer a familiar and reassuring routine, as well as a feeling of being in step with the outside world. School gives children a chance to keep a sense of identity and hope for the future.
The mission of the School Program is to provide opportunities to continue normal educational activities and to provide re-entry services to ease the transition back to the community school.
To help, the St. Jude School Program offers several services to assist patients with their academic progress.
The St. Jude School Program is accredited as a Special Purpose School by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Hospitalbound educational services are provided mainly to those patients who live outside the Memphis area and have to be at St Jude for treatment. Patients from the Memphis area can be seen by a St. Jude teacher if they do not have access to homebound services.
- There are currently 6 teachers and a teacher assistant at St. Jude to provide instruction for patients in grades K-12.
- Each child enrolled in the School Program will receive at least three hours of instruction each week.
- The classrooms are open every day. Please check with the teachers to find out what hours they are available for instruction.
- The program emphasizes using books and assignments from the patient’s home school. Assignments can be sent to St. Jude by fax, mail, or e-mail. The School Program will provide curriculum materials if it is not possible to get assignments from your child’s home school.
- While your child is enrolled in hospital-bound services, she will need to attend class regularly and will have homework to complete.
- International patients who do not speak English can attend the English as a Second Language (ESL) class with a teacher assistant. Once their English skills are at a certain level, they can start to participate in our regular program.
- The School Program suite is located in the Plaza level of the Patient Care Center in BP099. All School Program personnel are located in the suite which includes classrooms, a computer learning lab, a parent/family waiting area and separate teacher offices.
Some children will need homebound services either in the Memphis area or in their home community outside the Memphis area. School Program staff can help parents arrange for these services. Usually for homebound services to be authorized, your child’s doctor will need to sign a document explaining the child’s illness. This will be either a letter from the doctor or a form provided by the school system. School Program staff can assist with this process and facilitate getting the form signed or the letter from the physician.
School reintegration services
It is sometimes difficult for patients to return to school, especially when their appearance has changed due to hair loss or from other effects of their illness or treatment. The amount of time spent out of school and away from the structure of the school day also can make the transition more difficult. In order to make this transition smoother, St. Jude offers patients a School Reintegration Program. This is a joint project of School Program and Child Life Department.
- School Program staff can help parents contact the patient's school. They can help give school personnel information about the patient's diagnosis, treatment, and discuss options for continuing the patient's education.
- When the child returns to school, School Program staff, along with Child Life, can work to make this transition easier for your child.
- For patients who live within an hour's drive of Memphis, St. Jude staff can visit the patient's school. They can talk with classmates about the child’s disease, treatment, side effects of treatment, the central line/port-a-cath, and answer questions. The program may include a video as well as other visual aids and written materials.
- For patients who live more than an hour's drive from Memphis, School Program staff can contact community school personnel to discuss school re-entry issues and send them relevant video and written materials.
- Each child is an individual, and each child's school reintegration program will be designed to meet the wishes of that child and the parent or guardian. What is said to classmates and how it is said will be based on the children’s age level.
Sometimes when patients return to school they will need special education services in the form of resource class assistance, accommodations in the regular classroom or physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy services. Public school systems are mandated by federal laws to provide these services to students who meet certain criteria.
School Program staff can assist parents and patients in seeking such services and can provide information regarding pertinent federal laws. School program staff may be able to attend a meeting at the school with the patient/parent to discuss provision of these services or may be available for a conference call during the meeting. See the websites listed below for information regarding provision of special education services and federal laws which mandate provision of such services:
The School Program does not provide educational services for siblings. Siblings will need to be enrolled in a local public or private school or be taught by their parent. If they are not here long enough for them to be enrolled in a local school, an arrangement will need to be made with the sibling’s home school to send assignments and tests on a regular basis and to give credit for work done on those completed assignments and tests sent back to the school.
School Program staff will be able to receive faxed and mailed assignments and tests from the sibling’s school and will assist in faxing or mailing the completed assignment back to the sibling’s school. School Program staff will also give parents information about local public/private schools.
Frequently asked questions
How can a patient be referred to the School Program?
A patient can be referred to the School Program by parents or staff by contacting the School Program Director at 595-3346,contacting any teacher or through a School Program Consult in MILLI.
What if the community school will not give books to the patient?
The School Program staff can assist by making phone calls to community school personnel to explain the importance of using books and other materials from the patient’s community school. If this is unsuccessful, we will use our own materials to put together an appropriate curriculum for the patient. In doing so, we will strive to continue to work with the community school to make sure they accept our curriculum.
Are there materials available to send to the school to give them information about specific issues in educating children and adolescents with cancer?
Yes, we have written and video materials that can be sent to school personnel to help them to understand the issues our patients face in returning to the school environment.
What can I do if I am having difficulty getting appropriate services for my child in their community school system?
Contact the School Program Director at 595-3346 or ask clinic personnel to order a School Program Consult in MILLI. School Program staff can assist the family in understanding their rights under federal laws that govern the provision of special services in the school as well as make contacts with school personnel to advocate for the child’s needs.