Kate and I moved into our Clintonville home in 2005 and, once kids came along, we began loading up the stroller for countless walks to the nearby playground at Colerain Elementary. All of the school's equipment is wheelchair-friendly, which also made it perfect for crawlers and beginning walkers.

Kate and I moved into our Clintonville home in 2005 and, once kids came along, we began loading up the stroller for countless walks to the nearby playground at Colerain Elementary. All of the school's equipment is wheelchair-friendly, which also made it perfect for crawlers and beginning walkers.

It wasn't until our oldest reached school age that we realized Colerain's playground reflected the school's student population. In some ways, it functions like any other Columbus elementary school. "Regular education" students (their term) come from the surrounding neighborhood and school-choice lottery, but a hefty percentage of students with orthopedic impairments also are bused to Colerain from all over the city. The school's hallways have walking paths and wheelchair paths. (There are rules for all: Just as walkers can't run down the halls, wheelchairs can get speeding tickets.)

Colerain is a little-known gem. Once we visited, we knew we wanted our kids there. It's a tiny school, but the number of teachers and aides is incredible. Adults are everywhere, and they all know the students' names. It feels like a family.

When it comes to education, our family prioritizes safety and character building, and Colerain hits both those notes. I've watched the principal carry kids through the snow to keep their feet dry, and the cheerful custodian greets the kids curbside every day.

But even more important is the mix of students. When I helped man one of the inflatable slides at last year's Field Day, all the kids, regardless of how they move, were in heaven. I watched teachers carry kids up slides if they couldn't do it themselves.

When I was in elementary school, kids with disabilities were kept separate. At Colerain, no one is kept separate. Better yet, for my kids, Colerain is not unique at all. They now know better than I do what real life alongside people with special needs is like.

There tends to be a lot of negative news about Columbus City Schools, and some of that is deserved. If you asked me for my critiques of the district at large and the state of public education in Ohio, the list would be lengthy. But Kate and I are so encouraged by our experience at Colerain - one of the district's true bright spots. The staff has figured out how to put kids with immediately recognizable differences side by side in such a way that those differences make the experience more enriching for all the students - so much so that my kids were ready to go back to school halfway through the summer.

I'm ready, too. I'm excited for them to learn new things and progress in reading and math and all that, but mostly I'm grateful for the Colerain experience, which proves you learn by living.

-Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer who vowed his dog would be better behaved by the time school started. Mission failed.