About Hillcrest School

  • Hillcrest School provides valuable educational and training programs for students with a variety of significant disabilities in grades 6 - 12. The special programs provided for our exceptional students (ESE) are primarily designed to serve moderate to profound mental disabilities and students exhibiting autism spectrum disorders, including Speech Therapy, Physical and Occupational Therapy.

    The Marion County School Board operates Hillcrest School, a unique separate day school, and extends enrollment to all eligible Marion County residents. The program has grown and developed in partnership with the Ocala and Marion County community since 1971. Community support from business partners, sponsors and "friends" of Hillcrest provide immeasurable resources for our success!

    Programs and services range from mobility training utilizing the M.O.V.E. Program* goals and specialized adaptive equipment, therapeutic horseback riding, swimming instruction in our outdoor therapy pool, physical education, fitness, daily living skills, leisure/recreational skills and a curriculum built upon training for independence. A growing portion of this specialized curriculum incorporates technology to enhance instruction, understanding and communication skills via assistive devices.

    Community-based instruction (CBI) offers valuable opportunities to explore, shop, enjoy and work in specific sectors of our Ocala community. We have had tremendous support from ESE and School Transportation departments to offer frequent opportunities for students to learn to be more independent off-campus. The ultimate independence opportunities come from our very successful work-study training program. This community-based vocational training program (CBVT) uses training sites and job coaches to teach students the basic job skills of a specific business or service.


    The mission of Hillcrest is to create an environment that fosters individual student growth through the use of integrated curriculum, technology, and a comprehensive social-emotional program which includes school, family and community partnerships.


    student and staff at Special Olympics



    Hillcrest's school colors are green and white. Our mascot is a dragon.


    50th Anniversary



    We believe the value of children is not found in their potential for productivity, but merely in their being. We accept and respect their differences as well as their likenesses.

    The obligation for training our children does not rest solely with the educator. The training should be a concerted effort of teachers, parents, the community, the government and education.

    We are dedicated to create a learning situation, which would best benefit all students with disabilities. It is our desire to incorporate careful planning with knowledge of each individual child's physical, emotional, social and educational background in order to produce a balanced program.

    It is our ultimate goal to help all students of Hillcrest to develop their own sense of worth by training them to function as independently as they are individually capable of doing.


    Hillcrest Public School is located at 3143 SE 17th Street in Ocala, Florida. It is a Special Day School designed for the education and training of school-age students who have special educational needs. Direct instructional services and instructional support services are provided for students with moderate, severe and profound mentally handicapping conditions, as well as for students who exhibit the characteristics of autism.

    Hillcrest has been owned and operated by the Marion County Public School System since the fall of 1971. From its beginning, it was designed and dedicated to educate and train students who display intellectual capabilities in the "trainable" range of intelligence (one-fourth to one-half that of an "average" child of their own age). The facility was built with a combination of State and Local funds, constructed on acreage donated by the Marion County Commission.

    Attendance is limited to residents of Marion County only. Admission to Hillcrest is determined by a Staffing Committee (composed of School Psychologist, Resource Compliance Specialists, Parents, Teachers, Counselors, and Principals). A student is eligible for placement provided intelligence test data and measures of maturation, learning and school achievement consistently show moderate to severe limitations in reasoning/judgment, achievement, communication, socialization or other areas of growth and development. A student is placed in the Special Day School setting only after full consideration has been given to the Least Restrictive Environment in which the particular student's educational needs can best be met.

    In the spring of 1981, Hillcrest initiated a program for Autistic students. These students have difficulty processing sensory information (sight, sound, touch), and usually have extreme limitations in Communication, Social Behavior and Learning Skills. Due to the many "interfering behaviors" which students may engage in (self-stimulation, manipulation, tantrums), and to enhance progress in the areas of greatest difficulty, close supervision and a lower adult/student ratio is provided.

    In the fall of 1985, Hillcrest began a program to serve physically or visually impaired pre-school students (ages 3 & 4). A new class for mentally or emotionally handicapped pre-schoolers was added in the fall of 1987. Extensive speech, vision, occupational and physical therapies compliment the "experiences" of the classroom program. The primary goal of the Pre-School Program has been to insure a smooth transition into a regular school setting at age five.

    Beginning in February of 1988, Hillcrest expanded its program by providing a class for Profound Mentally Handicapped students. It is designed to be a Transition Program for students previously served at the ARC program on a contracted basis. The primary goal is to provide the needed educational and supportive services and therapies needed for semi-independent living. Greater independence in communication, daily living skills and self-care are of primary importance.

    In the fall of 1992, all of Hillcrest's programs for Pre-K through fifth graders were transferred to Maplewood Elementary School as part of the District's plan to include handicapped students on regular school campuses. That plan calls for the continued operation of Hillcrest School to serve middle and high school students who require the services of a special day school.

    In December 2001, construction began on the new addition to Hillcrest School and renovations to the existing building. The new building opened its doors on August 8, 2002.