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Joyce Bartz, interim director of special education at School District 65, recommended that one of the two classes serving students with emotional disabilities at Lincolnwood School be moved to Kingsley School. She told Board members on June 18, “Limiting the concentration of students with high needs allows for the effective use of resources to support all students in the building. We believe that this change can provide students in the ED program with greater access to mainstreaming and additional resource staff.”
Under the proposal, that part of the ED program serving students in grades K-2 would be moved from Lincolnwood to Kingsley, and that part of the ED program serving students in grades 3-5 would remain at Lincolnwood. There are currently four students in grades K-2, and six in grades 3-5.
Ms. Bartz added that additional social work services will be available to the program next year. “The ultimate goal of this change is to allow students in the ED program to be more successful academically, socially and emotionally.
“We want our students to be integrated into the fabric of the buildings,” Ms. Bartz continued, “and we thought we could do that with a smaller number of students.”
Assistant Superintendent Ellen Fogelberg said the decision was supported by many people who have worked with the kids in the program.
Several Board members expressed concerns about requiring four students with an emotional disability to transfer to Kingsley. They were further concerned that on a going-forward basis students at the third-grade level would be required to transfer from Kingsley to Lincolnwood.
Tracy Quattrocki noted that King Lab serves children with a disability in the K-8 grade levels, and questioned why Lincolnwood could not serve students across the K-5 grade-levels. She said she would like to see the ED program supported with additional resources at Lincolnwood so that students in the program would not be required to move to a new school.
Jerome Summers said, “I would tend not to move them.”
Richard Rykhus asked whether families had been informed of the potential move. Ms. Bartz said three of the four families who would be impacted were informed, and they did not disagree with decision. When he asked if parents were told that not all staff would move with the program, Ms. Bartz said they were not.
Board president Katie Bailey said she would like to ensure that all of the families be fully informed. Based on an informal poll of the Board, she said a majority of the Board did not object to the move.
Ms. Bailey said that by moving the ED program, the Board was not signaling a retreat from a goal stated in the District’s strategic plan that the District will “maximize continuity of program placement and services for special needs students.”
“I support Ms. Bartz’s effort to improve services for kids with emotional disabilities” said Cari Levin, founder of Citizens for Appropriate Special Education (CASE). “However, I am concerned about the program being moved because it causes a disruption for these vulnerable kids and also sets them up to face another transition back to Lincolnwood when they enter third grade.
“Also, the administration’s belief that too many ‘high needs’ students in one school taxes the resources beyond capacity is a concern,” Ms. Levin continued. “There are other schools in the District in which self-contained programs are located and ample services and supports are provided.
Ms. Levin added that a key to the success of a program for students with an emotional disability is adequate staffing, including assigning a social worker to the program on a full-time basis.