E's pre-school was also a center school, though that school is for students with learning challenges and physical disabilities (often called 'special ed'). Her pre-school integrated students beginning in pre-K, so E had a girl in her class with a couple of challenges (ie, she couldn't speak words and had troubles with fine motor skills and even some large motor skills). E and the other kiddos didn't even bat an eye -- which is the goal, imo, of integration. It lets kids see for themselves that everyone is different -- and that's normal (those differences).
At their current school, it's not so easy. The GT kids have always been separated from the rest of the school body. Yes, they have assemblies together, and each grade level has lunch at the same time -- but all the classrooms tend to stick to their own during lunch. During recess, the gen ed kids will play together, but they often avoid the GT kids.
To my delight, our current principal (who is new this year) made it clear from the beginning that she didn't like the separation going on at the school -- and she's a go-getter, so starting yesterday (their first day of school for 2013), my kiddos got to experience integration. It's only during specials so far, but the goal is to gradually spread it throughout the school day. Honestly, for our center school situation, I don't understand why this hasn't been done from the beginning. What's the point of having specialists within the school if the entire school body can't benefit from it?
The thing about learning, of course, is that it rarely fits any one path. Every student varies from that 'average' journey in one way or another -- and having the specialists available to ALL of them should be the goal everywhere. Obviously, this is only my opinion. :D However, I'm truly thrilled that our school is moving in that direction. There's no reason why GT and gen ed kids should be separate for specials and social studies and science (that will be the next area to work on integration). Plus, there are gen ed kids who should be in GT for other subjects, even if they don't 'test' into the class full time. And many, many of the GT kiddos need to be in gen ed for at least one subject (math or reading) and also don't have that chance.
How do the schools near you work? Do the students have the opportunity to flow from one level to another, depending on their strengths?