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Judy Weber, Executive Director and founder of Tobinworld, a middle school for autistic and developmentally disabled kids, speaks during the grand opening of Tobinworld 3 in Antioch, Calif., on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. The Antioch Unified school district officials welcomed the expansion of Tobinworld, aimed at helping students with severe special needs transition into the public school system. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

ANTIOCH -- Antioch Unified district officials and community leaders this week welcomed the expansion of a "nonpublic" school aimed at helping students with severe special needs transition into the public school system.

Tobinworld III, which started in January and has 14 kids from Antioch now enrolled, is set up to be a steppingstone into mainstream elementary, middle and high schools, said Judy Weber, the school's executive director. The concept is one of the first, if not the first in the state, she said.

"A lot of times these students will go back, but with no support," said Karen Mates, the district's director of special education. "This will help those students build that foundation so they can be successful."

Students will transition between Tobinworld and nearby Fremont Elementary, Antioch Middle and Antioch High schools one class at a time, and work closely with counselors, Mates said.

"That's always been a goal of Tobinworld," Weber said. "Frankly, I'm so tired of sending students to public schools and having them return."

Superintendent Donald Gill said the "innovative" program took about a year to get through the red tape.

This is the second Tobinworld campus in Antioch. Tobinworld II opened in 1998 and serves about 135 kids from 10 school districts classified as autistic, developmentally disabled and emotionally disturbed. Students come in with severe anti-social behaviors and can be prone to outbursts, Weber said.

Tobinworld's program includes positive reinforcement such as praise and the more tangible "Rewards Store," where students receive snacks or video game time for good behavior.

The Antioch sites added a clinician this year that does daily check-ins and counseling with the students, Principal Sara Forghani said.

"It has improved our quality of life dramatically," said parent Vicki Salazar of Tracy.

Her 20-year-old son Brandon, who was been in the program six years, used to be agitated and upset almost daily, but has done a 180-turn since entering Tobinworld.

Antioch Unified has a contract with Tobinworld through its Special Education Local Plan Area, or SELPA, for about $27,720 per child, officials said.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.


Chris Baptiste, a teachers aide at Tobinworld, a middle school for autistic and developmentally disabled kids, watches students as they study their
Chris Baptiste, a teachers aide at Tobinworld, a middle school for autistic and developmentally disabled kids, watches students as they study their spelling words in the classroom in Antioch, Calif., on Tuesday, April 8, 2014. The Antioch Unified school district officials welcomed the expansion of Tobinworld, aimed at helping students with special needs transition into the public school system. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)