Parents getting mixed messages over Springville special education school closure

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 8 2011 3:07 p.m. MST

SPRINGVILLE Parents with children at a school designed for students with the most severe disabilities feel their children's education is in jeopardy.

Parents say that when they were told Oakridge School in Springville was closing, it was a done deal. In fact, the school already had a new name.

Now, the Nebo School District says it doesn't intend to close Oakridge but parents say they aren't sure what to believe.

Marta Beaudry's son Christian is in his first year at Oakridge. He's in a wheelchair and can't speak. Despite his challenges, Beaudry said he's made remarkable progress.

"He has excelled extremely," she said. "He does chores now; I never thought he'd do chores."

Seven-year-old Erica, who has Down syndrome, has been at Oakridge for almost two years.

"She's had throat surgeries, two heart surgeries, and at this point, she can't speak," said Erica's father, Noel Carlson.

Both Beaudry and Carlson say they planned to keep their children at Oakridge that is, until last month when the district told parents it would be closing the school effective the end of this year.

"We got blindsided by it," Carlson said.

Parents called meetings with district heads to voice their concerns and to make sure their kids' needs were first and foremost.

"Nebo School District met with concerned parents ... and felt it was a very productive meeting," said Superintendent Rick Nielson. "We have a better understanding of parents' concerns, and hopefully parents have a better understanding of what Nebo School District has to offer."

The district discussed with parents the plan of making the school a transitional center for 18- to 22-year-olds and renaming it Mt. Nebo Transitional Center.

"In fact, initially the statement was that all students here at Oakridge would be assigned to other schools unless they were to be included in a transition program," said Oakridge School Principal Dr. Richard Kay.

Kay says he foresees a lot of changes.

But in a statement sent Monday, the district said it will not be closing Oakridge and apologized for any misunderstandings or miscommunication.

Beaudry is adamant this wasn't merely a miscommunication.

"Absolutely not," she said. "I know I heard what I heard, and I know the parents heard the same thing. It was just a change of words all of a sudden."

Nebo School District plans to meet again with parents and the special education department. It insists there will be placement options available for all students, whatever decision is made.

E-mail: aforester@desnews.com

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