New plans are to keep Meadowood program alive

Parents of special needs students in the Red Clay Consolidated School District are still overwhelmingly dissatisfied with proposed changes to the district’s inclusion model.

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, RCCSD deputy superintendent Hugh Broomall said that the district has decided to allow the Meadowood program to continue running, while adding a second elementary cluster school in the 2015-16 school year.

Meadowood is the site for the district’s most severely disabled students, according to Broomall. 

Children enrolled at Meadowood would not be sent back to their neighborhood feeder schools, as expected in the earlier inclusion model.

The rest of the plan, including the timeline and the shuttering of the Richardson Park Learning Center and Central High School, will remain in place.

Broomall said the decision was made based on the over 100 public meetings and information sessions held over the past two years.

“We also recognize that we there might be some students that might have some unique learning or social needs, and we would be able – through the IEP process – to see if Meadowood would be able to serve those students.”

Students from Central and RPLC that are typically returned to their feeder schools would have the same resources available to them in those schools, Broomall said.

Nate Schwartz, a parent of special needs children in the district, said that for some kids, the “least restrictive environment” could be a school like Richardson Park where they receive focused attention.

Citing a study from Penn State, Schwartz said that while a “least restrictive environment” is an excellent model, it isn’t the best model for every child.

“I was very disappointed in Dr. Broomall’s presentation, or lack thereof,” Schwartz said. “I expected to see a presentation on a laid-out plan … we didn’t get any of that, so I feel like we’re back to square one again.”

Schwartz suggested that the board help form a special education PTO to explore issues specific to special needs children.

Mandy Gonye, secretary for the Delaware State PTA and a district parent, said that she was happy her three kids received a quality education in Red Clay through school choice.

She also was concerned that special needs parents and kids would no longer share those benefits even though they deserve them.

“I sincerely hope going forward that the board considers the individual needs of all children in our schools, with a focus on timely, collaborative discussion with parents at all grade levels,” Gonye said.

Board president Faith Newton said that, as a parent of special needs children, she is often upset by the reaction of parents angry at the board over the inclusion issue.

“I have walked in those shoes, and I still walk in them,” she said. “I am also very passionate – and very upset and concerned – about how things will go with inclusion.”

She added that she would like to see a more comprehensive plan from the district on how they will deal will professional development from the inclusion standpoint.

The board is expected to vote on the inclusion issue at the March 19 meeting. An additional information session is scheduled on March 5 at 5:30 in the district office.