As a new school year begins, one archdiocesan principal is giving a shout-out to donors making Catholic education available to kids with special needs.

“We wouldn’t have our doors open if we didn’t have the Catholic Charities Appeal (CCA),” said Katie Bier, principal of Our Lady of Confidence School (OLC).

One of three archdiocesan schools of special education, OLC spans two campuses: one at Queen of Angels Regional School in Willow Grove, and the other at Archbishop Wood High School.

Although the two locations are five miles apart, OLC forms a continuum of “love, kindness and a sense of family,” said Bier. “Some have them have gone to school together from age four to 21.”

As part of its overall educational model, OLC provides not only academic instruction, but a range of interventions and therapies centering on life skills, vocational training, technology and related services.

Because of the comprehensive approach, tuition at the school adds up to about $25,000 per year – with CCA covering some 75% of that for each student, Bier said.

“Without that money, our families would not be able to afford OLC,” she said — especially since parents who have children with special needs already face higher medical bills.

At the same time, families “want to be able to send their child to a Catholic special education school,” where faith is central to the curriculum, Bier said.

“We really focus on enabling them to become as independent as possible, not just academically, but spiritually,” she said.

OLC students “always start and end the day with prayer,” Bier said.

Scripture readings, hymns and catechetical videos are standard, as is “prayer before all meals and snacks,” she said.

OLC high school students regularly attend Mass with their Archbishop Wood classmates, while the elementary kids join Queen of Angels students for liturgies.

Even students who are not Catholic “really embrace the whole idea of prayer,” Bier said.

As the CCA heads into its second phase, she’s hoping area faithful will invest in OLC’s students.

“Our slogan is ‘blessed to be the best,’” she said. “You just see the works of God in the students, and in the staff that work with them.”

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For more information on Our Lady of Confidence School of Special Education, visit the school’s website.

To donate to the Catholic Charities Appeal, visit the CCA website.