More than 80 parents packed the Davis School Board meeting Tuesday night, many to voice their opposition to a proposal to turn an underused school for the handicapped into an elementary school.
Parents of special-education students who attend the school, Monte Vista in Farmington, are worried about a plan to mix handicapped students with other children who might tease or ridicule them. Some have chosen keep their children out of special-education classes in neighborhood schools for that reason, Emily Dille, Monte Vista PTA president and member of the task force that studied the change, said.Some parents were also worried that a change in the school might further reduce the quality of education their children receive.
"We would like you to give credence to the charter of Monte Vista to be a school for the help of the handicapped," said Dan Jepsen, a parent. "There has been a real falling off of support and help for the Monte Vista programs. We're concerned that this type of change might further bring down the program for handicapped kids."
The board gave preliminary approval to a task force report that says Monte Vista School could be used as a small elementary school to help ease crowding at Farmington and Knowlton elementaries.
The report says 324 elementary-age students could attend the school along with 58 special-education students who are already there. Board members urged that questions about the plan be answered within the next two weeks so they can make a final decision at their meeting March 21.
Sharon Treu, chairwoman of the task force and parent from the Knowlton Elementary area, said parents on the task force support the idea of Monte Vista becoming an elementary school.
"All parents supported the idea of integration and the interaction of students with handicaps and their non-handicapped peers. Parents expressed positive comments at the prospect of their non-handicapped students receiving a `social education' along with an academic one," she said.
Carolee Parker, a parent from Knowlton Elementary area, said she is worried because the plan might jeopardize the school's chances to change to a year-round schedule, which she said she supports. Vickie MacDonald, a parent and school pyschologist, also raised questions about whether moving children to Monte Vista might create disruptive changes again in a few years.
Superintendent Richard Kendell said that whether children are moved to Monte Vista, the school will have to remain on an extended-day schedule or move to a year-round schedule.
Without a final decision on Monte Vista, the board instructed a task force considering schedule changes at Knowlton Elementary to look at several different scenarios and gauge parent, teacher and administrator reaction to each.
Task force recommendations:
- If Monte Vista is changed, it should be funded as a "new school" with media center, computer lab, teaching equipment.
- Handicapped students should occupy four central classrooms for safety, medical reasons. Handicapped students older than 12 should be allowed to stay.
- The school's name should be retained, but school colors and a mascot would be chosen by new students.
- A combination of open enrollment and boundary changes should be used to fill schools.