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Marshall Street School to stay open

August 17, 2000

Marshall Street School to stay open



By ANDREW SCHOTZ / Staff Writer


Washington County Board of Education President Paul Bailey on Thursday dismissed a rumor that the Marshall Street School, which serves children with disabilities, might close.

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Bailey said the School Board considers the Hagerstown school "vital" and plans to keep it operating.

Parents of some special education students this week questioned the School Board's commitment to Marshall Street. The school has programs for those ages 3 to 21, including intensive services for students with severe disabilities.

Lisa Goodie of Hagerstown told the School Board on Tuesday that the district is trying too hard to "mainstream," or desegregate, special education students.

Goodie, whose 5-year-old son, Matthew, has Down syndrome, said she has "never been more frustrated."

"I'm feeling Matthew is being viewed as a second-class citizen," she said.

"There has been absolutely no discussion regarding the closing of the Marshall Street center," Bailey said.

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One principal had been supervising the two schools, but the School Board plans to have a second principal for the coming semester, he said.

"Most of the concern has emanated from the rumor that we are going to close the Job Development Center, which is another special needs center," Bailey said. That rumor is also untrue, he said.

Speculation about the Job Development Center in Smithsburg was brought up during a recent delinquency hearing for a 16-year-old former student.

Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett Jr. testified during that hearing that the Marshall Street School and the Job Development Center are expensive but necessary.

The center provides vocational training for young adults, typically ages 16 to 21.

Last month, Martha Roulette, the School Board's director of student services, said there was no plan to close the Job Development Center.

Roulette did not return a call Thursday.

Mary Gonzalez of Hagerstown said this week that her son, Joshua, 4, who has Down syndrome, was on a list to be in a mainstream kindergarten class next year, against her wishes. She was told it was an accident and it was corrected, but a few months later, he was back on the list. Gonzalez wondered if it really was an accident.

"I think they want Marshall Street closed. They're just not saying it," Gonzalez said.

The student-staff ratio and condition of the Marshall Street School building worry Mary Stevens of Boonsboro. "It's in awful disrepair," she said.

Stevens has an 11-year-old daughter, Alexandra, with a learning disorder. Alexandra's class had students with too wide a range of disabilities, Stevens said.

Stevens and Goodie also wondered why students from the Marshall Street School share buses with Job Development Center students. Both said they are worried for their children's safety.

At the last School Board meeting, Goodie said a student once head-butted a bus aide and broke the aide's jaw.

Sharon Rahochik, a transportation specialist for the School Board, wouldn't talk about specific incidents, but acknowledged that special education students have had "violent" episodes on buses and have inflicted injuries.

Students from Marshall School, Job Development Center and other programs travel together because they're all "special needs" students, she said.

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