EASLEY, S.C. – It looks like your typical elementary school, with teachers, students, desks and morning announcements over the PA system.
At this school, though, the entire student body is anything but typical: all of the 150 students there are dyslexic.
“This year, so far, we have applications from California, Vermont and Texas and North Carolina,” said Heidi Bishop, principal of Lakes and Bridges Charter School in Easley, South Carolina.
It is a public charter school that opened in 2018 and it is attracting attention from all over the country because it’s specifically designed for students diagnosed with dyslexia.
“That affects their comprehension, which then affects every component of their school day,” Bishop said.
The school is one of only a handful of free schools in the U.S., geared towards students with dyslexia. Allison Bullock’s adopted twin daughters, along with her grandson, all ended up there after all three struggled in a traditional public school.
“It was nice as a parent to finally get recognition of ‘that's what's going on and we can help you with that,’” Bullock said.
As many as 43.5 million Americans have dyslexia. Like other learning disabilities, it can have long-term serious consequences for kids. Compared to other students, they are estimated to have more than double the high school dropout rate – as high as 36 percent.
“A lot of these kids end up dropping out of school, which has a huge economic impact on us as taxpayers,” Bishop said.
That’s why educators say it’s important to diagnose children early and help them mitigate their dyslexia to succeed in school.
Yet, private schools catering to students with dyslexia can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year.
“This shouldn't just be available only to children whose parents either could write that check or have enough resources,” Bishop said.
Such a cost was not an option for these families.
“Cost-wise, as a family, there would be no possible way that we could do it,” Bullock said.
That is why, Bishop said, their free school gets overwhelmed by applications, requiring a waitlist. For those who made the cut, there is a sense of relief.
“It has helped our children so much and they have come a long way since being here and we're just grateful,” said Bullock, who is hopeful this specialized education will set them on a path to success.
Educators said there is hope that early intervention for students with dyslexia can help them make a smoother transition back into more traditional schools when they are older.