German, Mathematics and Independence: Strengthening each student’s abilities is the goal of the Weiherschule. She is now celebrating her fiftieth anniversary.
Hechingen – You learn in small classes and you have many supporters at your side: severely disabled children and youth, students with autism and children in need of special care learn at the Weiherschule in Hechingen. “We don’t have grades, each child is taught individually,” says Principal Rainer Brandner.
Originally founded on the initiative of Lebenshilfe, the school opened in 1972 as a private school for educationally disadvantaged children and youth. There were 33 students initially, “but the numbers have increased over the years,” says Brandner. The children and young people had previously attended a kindergarten and school in Empingen, but then arrived in the Zollernalp region. Students from Burladingen and Balingen, Haigerloch and Jungingen, Hechingen or Rangendingen now come to the Weiherschule. There are 81, the rows are small: the interval is six.
“As a general rule, it is seen in kindergarten that children have an intellectual disability,” Brandner explains. Early support will then start. The first year of school is all about getting there. “And look: what does the student need, where is he?” Some begin in the first semester with reading, writing and arithmetic. “The others are not there yet.” They sort, arrange and identify quantities, eg. It is also important to enhance movement, recognition in space: where is up, down, left, right?
Practical life lessons are offered, and housekeeping is an important part. “While cooking, for example, we look at the ingredients I need, and what should be on the shopping list? Then we go shopping with the students,” Brandner explains. He sums it up like this: “We learn German, mathematics and independence.”
There are five classes in basic level 1 to 4, another class learns comprehensively in the set of things. However, students often stop in Hechingen: “The connection to the regular school was not lost,” Brandner asserts. The same applies to the class at the vocational school level, which takes place in a different building in Hechingen. The total number of students is increasing: In addition to the six classes in the primary school, the Weiherschule has four main classes from grades 5 to 9 and three levels of vocational schools from grades 10 to 12.
After the completion of the new building at the Hechingen Vocational School Center, Weiherschule students can also be accommodated there, Marisa Hahn, a spokeswoman for the district office, told our editorial team. There are currently no concrete expansion plans for the Weiherschule itself. “But it cannot be excluded that we will need additional semesters at the Weiherschule.”
There are over 30 teachers, and Brandner praised them as “loyal and open-minded.” There are eight positions at FSJ – we are still urgently looking for them for the upcoming academic year. Pupils, teachers, and aides: “That’s a fair number,” says Brandner.
Most students leave school after grade 12. “In order to transition into working life, we collaborate closely with Lebenshilfe,” Brandner reports. There are also opportunities to find a job in the primary labor market: “Some leave school with an employment contract.”
Internships were often not possible during the Corona period, and some students stayed in the vocational school for longer. “It wasn’t clear where we were going.” Brandner is pleased that the restrictions caused by the pandemic have also been greatly reduced in the Weiherschule. “It was very difficult for me,” explains the school principal. “I didn’t even know every student.” Classes were organized into separate groups, and they were not allowed to mingle. But this is over, the students meet again, the playground is open to all. Brandner: “The school community is now coming together again.” The fiftieth birthday celebration can come.
■ Celebrations: The 50th Anniversary will be celebrated with a party and two invitations on Friday, May 20th. The school festival continues on Saturday, May 21st. After the service ends at 11 am in the school yard, the school festival begins. The school band plays – teachers and students from different classes are rehearsing a song for this. There is a rubber castle, dance performances, audio videos for students, and a photo gallery about “clothes over 50”. On the photo wall, guests can dare to look back. A Lebenshilfe food truck will also be on site.
■ 3G regulation: 3G applies to the school festival, and access is controlled. For the Weiherschule as a private education and counseling center with a focus on mental development, all people who are not exempt from quarantine are either prohibited from entering or obligated to submit a negative test.