School board members, administrators and educators from all the school districts in the four counties -- Scott, New Madrid, Mississippi and Stoddard -- served by New Dawn were invited to tour the facility, New Dawn PTO president Malinda Darter of New Madrid said the concept for the open house came after PTO members discovered many people in the area don't know about New Dawn and its services.
"We thought we'd invite them to come see us and see how fantastic the school really is," Darter said. "We wanted them to take a look around and see how everything was and how the teachers and students function."
Visitors to the open house were invited to tour each classroom while many of the students participated in activities.
"This school is for everybody," Darter said. "Our children attend here, but it's everyone's school."
"I think we have a program that needs to be exported to other states and it's cutting edge," Neumeyer said.
Currently 35 students ranging in age from 5 to 21 attend New Dawn. There are five classrooms, five classroom teachers, one physical education teacher, one speech therapist, one cook and 12 teacher's aides.
"Every student at New Dawn has an individual education program, yet they are all part of the same group," Neumeyer said.
Newly elected State Reps. Steve Hodge and Ellen Brandom were also on hand to tour the facility and meet with children, parents and New Dawn staff members. "It's an awesome facility and serves as a real need in the community," Brandom said while touring the facility.
New Dawn also provides a safe environment for the students, which is reassuring for parents, both Darter and Neumeyer said.
"As a parent, you have to feel comfortable with the staff. If you have a child who has seizures, you want someone who knows what to do. If you have a child with a feeding tube, you want to know that they'll do the feeding right. It's really big deal," Darter said.
And parents whose children weren't born with disabilities should also be informed about New Dawn because some disabilities can result from injuries in a car wreck or other accident, Darter pointed out. Some day they may need the services of the state school, she said.
For Melody Gardner of Sikeston, switching her 13-year-old son, Logan, from a public school to New Dawn has meant a world of difference for her family.
Before Logan started attending New Dawn at the beginning of this school year, he was getting in trouble for behavioral problems at the public school.
"We love it here," Gardner said. "There has been no problems at all. And he hasn't had any behavioral problems."
Although state education officials and the governor have said there are no plans to close down state schools, the issue is always on parents' minds. And it's one they want to ensure never happens.
Cindi Jones, New Madrid County R-1 special education director, said it would be costly for a district and a huge undertaking should state school students ever be mainstreamed into public schools.
"It's not that public schools can't do it or wouldn't want to, but public schools don't have the equipment or space and would have to hire more aides," Jones said.
Jones is very familiar with New Dawn and had nothing but praise for the state school. "It works well. Parents are happy. Students are happy. It's a very loving atmosphere," Jones said.
Debra Kerr of Charleston said she loves the small teacher-student ratio at New Dawn. "They're there for them and have children involved all day long," Kerr said. "They're not just sitting in the corner in a vegetative state."
Kerr's 11-year-old daughter, Tiara, has been attending New Dawn for the past seven years. Although Tiara has to receive treatment at a children's hospital, she does receive some therapy at New Dawn.
In fact, Tiara has had fewer doctor visits since attending New Dawn, her mother said. Kerr said she appreciates that teachers are trained and know what to do in emergency/health situations like when her daughter has a seizure.
Kerr said she's concerned if state schools ever close, more children will get sick (because of attending public schools) and will start dying off. "It's a very good school to not have," Kerr said about New Dawn. "We can't lose it."
Those who weren't able to attend Monday's open house and are interested in seeing the school should call (573) 472-5360 to make an appointment