Special ed parents air concerns

July 26, 2000

Special ed parents air concerns

By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer

The fate of the Job Development Center and Head Start as well as confusion at the start of a new school year over where students will attend were among the concerns discussed at a meeting held by parents of special needs students Wednesday.

About 20 parents and three Washington County Board of Education administrators attended the meeting at Frostburg State University Hagerstown Center.

Barbara Wagner, who has a 20-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome enrolled in Smithsburg's Job Development Center, questioned the center's future status and said it needs to remain fully staffed to be successful.

The Job Development Center serves retarded and challenged students between ages 16 and 21.

Wagner and other parents said they've heard rumors of the center closing and that teachers are being told to mainstream special needs students.

"The Job Development Center is open, and there is not a plan to close the Job Development Center," said Martha Roulette, the School Board's director of student services. "There are more programs available in high schools now, but we still have the smaller groups who seem to need that type of environment" available at the center.


Roulette, however, said enrollment at the center probably won't increase over the years.

Kelly Whittington, a parent of a special needs student, said teachers and instructional assistants are not being replaced at the center, which will have a harmful effect on learning.

"The kids are going to suffer," she said. "It scares me and makes me want to panic."

Russell Williams, School Board candidate and parent of an autistic daughter, said another problem is that parents aren't being told they have an option of sending their specials needs children to the Job Development Center.

"The JDC needs to be an option that is very clearly presented to parents," Williams said. "I have been told by parents that they did not know about it."

Other parents expressed concern about the ramifications of the School Board no longer providing Head Start. They also questioned whether the teachers and instructional assistants provided by Resources for Children and Families, the organization offering Head Start this year, will be trained to interact with special needs students.

Parent JoEllen Barnhart said she has no idea as of now where her child will be attending school, a situation her family has been in before.

"This is the fourth time my child hasn't had a school to go to, and it's the end of July," she said. "We need something that is stable, in place."

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