Accommodation sought for special needs children

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

For the second time in two months, a parent has addressed school board members at their meeting, begging them to budget for a comprehensive development classroom at Forrest School.

Both have children in the comprehensive development classroom (CDC) at Chapel Hill Elementary School.

At their January meeting, board members heard from Greg Horner. His autistic son is a 5th grader at CHES now, and if there is no CDC at Forrest the boy will have to be bused to Lewisburg, starting next year.

"He feels like he should be at the big school with his friends," said Horner. "Why do this to our special needs children?"

Schools director Roy Dukes said he planned to submit a request for a CDC at Forrest when he presents the budget.

"The need is there," said Horner. "You're going to see more of these children. Every school should have a CDC. I ask the board to be their voice; help this plan to go through."

"We should include it in our budget," agreed Ann Tears.

"It's been on the budget for a few years, but it has been shot down," Horner said.

"What kind of numbers (of students) are we talking about?" asked Randy Perryman.

"I don't know," Dukes answered.

Lisa Cahill's daughter is also in the CDC at CHES. The child is wheelchair bound and non-verbal, but, as Cahill pointed out, she "has rights like every normal child does."

Cahill agreed with Horner, stating, "There's a great need for a CDC at Forrest," and going on to say that the school system would be doing the special needs students a disservice by busing them to Lewisburg and breaking up the closely-knit group of classmates.

"We rely on the teachers and students to keep our child safe," Cahill said.

Both parents agreed that special needs children do much better in a familiar setting, surrounded by people they know.

In other business at the February meeting, school board members approved:

* The resolutions necessary to move federal Jobs Bill money from one account to another, and to use some of it to pay employee bonuses. The resolutions now move to the county commission's education and budget committees, and finally to the county commission itself.

* Acceptance of a gift of scoreboards for MCHS's Preston Hopkins/Joe George Field from Waste Management.

"They haven't agreed yet," said Chairman Mike Keny. "It's a process, but they will be really, really nice. This will be top notch."

After the unanimous vote in favor, Marshall County High School Principal Keith Stacey said, "I thank you for approving that. It's still in the beginning stages, but Waste Management has indicated they want to do it, so hopefully it will work out."

* A motion to empower school board attorney Sam Jackson to have a conversation with director-elect Jackie Abernathy about the terms of her contract. According to Barbara Kennedy, Abernathy has already said she doesn't need an official car, so the contract doesn't need a clause about providing a car.

"The board still has the final say-so," Keny pointed out.

* The final approval of the night went to what Perryman called a "win-win situation:" leasing land to the Chapel Hill Lions Club for a pavilion on the Forrest school grounds.

"They can get away from renting a tent," Perryman said. "There's no cost to the school system."