Petal 3-D School plans expansion as enrollment continues to rise

School still fundraising for construction, set to begin in a few weeks
The Petal 3-D School serves students with dyslexia and related learning challenges.
Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 4:59 PM CDT
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PETAL, Miss. (WDAM) - Statistics show that 70 to 80 percent of people with poor reading skills are likely dyslexic.

One school in the Pine Belt hopes to help even more students struggling with the disability.

The Dynamic Dyslexia Design -- or 3D School -- has announced plans to expand during National Dyslexia Awareness Month.

Executive Director of the 3-D School, Cena Holifield, says she was inspired to found a school that specifically served dyslexic students after working with children with disabilities in a local private school. She noticed students weren’t getting the help they needed to learn their way.

“We are currently serving 147 children. When we started the school back in 2008, we started with 24 children. Even though there’s more dyslexia awareness now than there ever was, which we’re so thankful for, there’s still not enough services for these children in our area. So, the need for this school is growing and we’re seeing more and more children that need our services,” Holifield says.

The school focuses on meeting children where they are and providing them the tools and learning outlook they need to thrive academically.

“And our whole day is geared towards meeting their needs. We have dyslexia therapy every single day for these children. All of our teachers here at the 3-D School are have a master’s degree in dyslexia therapy,” Holifield explains.

Since student enrollment continues to increase, the school is planning an expansion. The school will knock down an existing building on its property next door and build six more classrooms.

“Right now, we have children that were had to turn we had to convert our gym into classrooms so we lost our gym. We bought some little houses here next door to the school. We’re using those little houses as classrooms because we have run out of room in the current building,” Holifield explains.

Blair Shafer even moved her family from Starkville to Petal to enroll her son, Sam, in the 3-D School.

“Sam was not learning right well in the traditional school setting, His self-esteem was suffering, his confidence was suffering, and we knew we had to make a change. So we’re so fortunate that the 3-D School was only 200 miles away. It was easy enough to pick up and move, and it’s been well worth it,” Shafer says.

Shafer advises any parent who sees their child struggling with dyslexia or related challenges to look into the 3-D School. She says it has made a big positive impact on her son and their whole family.

“His self-esteem. In the first two weeks, he totally went back to my happy little boy who’s learning like he needs to and the setting he needs to. We’re just so thankful that we’re here. Sam is thriving. He loves going to school, whereas that was not the case before,” Shafer says.

As of Oct. 6, the school has raised $350,000 of the funds needed for the $1 million dollar project.

Holifield says the school is continuing to campaign for donations and apply for grants to fund the expansion.

“We do have some wonderful benefactors and people that are supporting the school, and we have levels of giving. We also have a brick legacy, where we’re selling bricks for the building that will be engraved brick pavers for the porch of the school,” Holifield explains.

Holifield says there has been a wonderful response from former students and supporters. She has also secured grant money from a few foundations that support dyslexia-based programs.

You can learn about the fundraisers and donate here.

The school is even planning on incorporating the expansion into the school curriculum to get students involved and excited.

“We do plan to have demo day. The children are going to get to be a part of that day. So we have little yellow hardhats for them, we’re going to put them across the street so that they can watch the big excavators and the bulldozers do their work when we demo the original building. They’re learning about these different kinds of construction equipment, and so that will be turning into a little educational unit and a writing exercise for them to do,” Holifield explains.

Holifield says the support has been overwhelming with enrollment and donations. She says she and the staff are looking forward to the expansion so they can continue to bring awareness and offer learning options to students with dyslexia.

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