Dec 01
Classroom with Kids and Teacher

New Guide Highlights Specialized Programs for Students with Disabilities Across New Orleans Public Schools

Guide Showcases Specialized Programs at Schools Citywide Along with New Referral Process to Improve Student Access; Part of Multiyear Effort by NOLA Public Schools, Center for Learner Equity, and Schools to Scale and Improve Student Access to Specialized Programs

New Orleans, LA — For the first time in the city’s post-Katrina school system families of children with disabilities can access a dedicated resource regarding specialized programs across the city’s schools, as well as a consistent process for seeking referrals to these programs through each student’s IEP team. NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) and the Center for Learner Equity (CLE) have worked for several years in partnership with local charter schools and key non-profit partners to develop a comprehensive vision for specialized programming for students with disabilities. 

This vision includes uniform access, sustainable funding, and a commitment to quality in programs so that across the school system, all students with disabilities who require significant supports can benefit from meaningful educational opportunities no matter what school they currently attend. A milestone of the work thus far is NOLA-PS’ new Specialized Programs Guide and streamlined referral process, both developed in partnership with CLE. The guide highlights ten specialized programs for students with significant disabilities located within public schools run by seven charter management organizations across the city. 

“NOLA Public Schools (NOLA-PS) treasures its students with disabilities, and we want to ensure they have access to the best and most qualified support systems that will help them reach their full potential,” said NOLA Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis Jr. “As we launch the first round of our NOLA Public Schools Common Enrollment Application (NCAP), we want to provide our school community with all of the resources and information needed to assist our students and families in accessing the most appropriate supports and services. We’d like to thank CLE for partnering with us to expand our supports to students and for helping create this important tool for our families.”

CLE’s Local Policy Manager Jennifer Coco stated, “We are thrilled to be partnering with NOLA Public Schools and local charter schools in this work. For too long, students with disabilities have lacked access to specialized programs in our public schools, forcing them to leave the school system, seek private placement, or go underserved. While this work continues, we are proud of the collaboration and partnership between NOLA-PS and schools thus far to expand programs and transparently communicate this information to families. Kids and families benefit when we work together as one school system with shared responsibility for their education.”

Crescent City Schools runs the Aurora Program, one of the programs featured in the guide, focused on serving students grades K-8 with significant trauma and social-emotional difficulties. Crescent City Schools’ CEO Kate Mehok stated, “We are excited for the opportunity to partner with the Center for Learner Equity and NOLA Public Schools to expand access to the Aurora program to all students in New Orleans. We believe the guide will help schools better support families and ensure that all children in our city have access to the services and programs they need to succeed.”

The programs featured in the Specialized Programs Guide are specially designed to meet the needs of students with cognitive and intellectual disabilities and students with disabilities requiring therapeutic behavioral supports. Students interested in these programs may seek referrals through their IEP teams at their current schools. Programs will review each student referral to determine whether the student will benefit from the program, contingent upon existing capacity. Students placed in programs will retain their current school assignments. NOLA Public Schools will assist with connecting IEP teams and families seeking referrals to the specialized programs.

NOLA Public Schools, the Center for Learner Equity, and charter school leaders will continue their ongoing collaboration to scale programs responsive to student need, address long-term program sustainability, and ensure program quality for student success.

To view the guide, visit this link.

About NOLA Public Schools

NOLA Public Schools is the public school district for Orleans Parish. It includes the district’s administration and elected school board, known as the Orleans Parish School Board. NOLA Public Schools currently oversees 76 public schools and is led by Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis, Jr.

For more information, visit

For updates, follow NOLA Public Schools on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About the Center for Learner Equity 

Co-founded by Lauren Morando Rhim and Paul O’Neill, CLE is committed to ensuring that students with disabilities, particularly those in under-resourced communities, have the quality educational opportunities and choices they need to thrive and learn. We accomplish this through research, advocacy, coalition formation, and capacity building with national, state, and local partners.

For updates, follow The Center for Learner Equity on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Press contact for CLE: Lisa Cohen
 310-395-2544 //

Press contact for NOLA Public Schools: Taslin Alfonzo
504-202-7229 //