Local Folks - Any Ideas?

Sharon November 5th, 2008

Well, the good news is that the Bush regime is on its way out, and maybe later I’ll write more about that, but for now, I’m hoping to use the tremendous knowledge of my readers just one more time.

You see yesterday, Eli’s school was inexplicably closed.  And in the afternoon, we got a phone call from Eli’s third grade teacher, in tears.  A water main broke at the school, and flooded the building.  The building is badly damaged, and won’t be safe for kids until major repairs are made.

Eli attends the Crossroads Center for Children, in Glenville, New York.  It is a program for kids on the autism spectrum from 2-12.  We’ve been very lucky to have him there  - it is a wonderful program, serving kids from every school district in the greater Albany area.  This year, Eli’s wonderful teacher is really pushing him, and he’s responding beautifully - he loves to go to school, and is happy every morning to get on the bus.

Now we’ve been operating for a long time on the assumption that at some point, disruptions in the system might require us to homeschool Eli - and of course, we have the luxury of one of us being home with the other kids all the time, so for us, this is a tough situation (because Eli loves school, is losing services and time, and because disruptions in his routine are not Eli’s favorite thing) but pretty doable (and a good reminder that preparedness isn’t just for Zombie attacks ;-)).  But for single parents, two parent working families and kids who are less mellow than Eli, or who really need their PT, this is a complete disaser.  There are more than sixty kids in Eli’s school, including the little guys - and for a lot of them, this is a really bad situation - and tremendously tough on their families and the children.

When Eli’s teacher called, she said they were desperately looking for somewhere else to reopen - and as soon as possible.  But that means finding a facility somewhere in the region that can handle a large influx of kids, including disabled kids.  I have one idea, but I know those of my readers who live in the area are tied into networks I don’t have any access to - so I’m asking for your help.  If you live out this way, and you have any ideas for a facility that could handle temporary accomodations for a large number of kids who really need a place to learn, I’d be tremendously grateful to you, and so would everyone in the Crossroads Community. 

It doesn’t have to have a cafeteria, and I think the location is somewhat fungible (because the school mostly serves kids whose school districts have no placement for them, they are bused from all over), but it would need to be safe, ideally have some kind of contained outdoor or indoor playspace (this might be something that could be done without if they had to), and be able to handle 8-10 classrooms and some associated services.  People would be willing to cram, I suspect, and make do - but they do need some space.

If you have any ideas, please post them here or email me at [email protected].  Again, Eli won’t love this, but he’ll be fine - we can integrate him into our homeschool.  But I’m really worried about the kids whose parents face losing jobs while they take time off to care for them, the kids who will radically regress or suffer physical consequences, and the loss of structure, familiarity and stability with people who love and respect them for all the kids. I’d be really grateful for any help, and so would  a lot of other parents.

 Sharon

12 Responses to “Local Folks - Any Ideas?”

  1. M.Squirrelon 05 Nov 2008 at 9:03 am

    I don’t know if this would work in your case, but I’ll tell you the way our school district does it.

    Our district has several schools that it uses for the special need’s schools…they just take up a couple of classrooms in an otherwise regular school. The kids are picked up by the bus at their home and driven to the nearest of the schools that has the “Lifeskills” class. Thankfully, one of these was the same elementary that our oldest attended, so our own autistic child was able to attend the same school as big brother for several years until big brother went on to junior high.

    They use up three classrooms total at our local elementary…one for the preschool and kindergarden age (they take up the empty kindy class during half the day), one for the 1st through 3rd grade, and another for the 4th through 6th grade. I think there is about 10 children in each of these classes, with a specialist teacher and several para-educators. Each child is also assigned a “regular classroom”…they attend P.E., music, library, and art with their regular classroom.

    My son, having progressed as far as he has, also has a couple of other classes (such as social studies) with the regular 4th grade classroom, and is helped by a para-educator if they need it. The district also employs several speech therapists and reading specialists that move from school to school, and my son attends at least two of each of these classes a week. They use the kindergarden playground, which is fenced in and has slides and swings.

    There are two other children in his “Lifeskills 2″ class that are autistic. I don’t know what the other children’s special needs are…his best friend, a girl, appears to not have any special needs at all, and one of the boys needs the constant care of a para-educator, so there is a mix of special needs.

    The only time our son doesn’t want to go to school is the first couple of weeks after summer vacation, and the first couple of weeks after winter vacation…he’d rath

  2. M.Squirrelon 05 Nov 2008 at 9:05 am

    I don’t know if this would work in your case, but I’ll tell you the way our school district does it.

    Our district has several schools that it uses for the special need’s schools…they just take up a couple of classrooms in an otherwise regular school. The kids are picked up by the bus at their home and driven to the nearest of the schools that has the “Lifeskills” class. Thankfully, one of these was the same elementary that our oldest attended, so our own autistic child was able to attend the same school as big brother for several years until big brother went on to junior high.

    They use up three classrooms total at our local elementary…one for the preschool and kindergarden age (they take up the empty kindy class during half the day), one for the 1st through 3rd grade, and another for the 4th through 6th grade. I think there is about 10 children in each of these classes, with a specialist teacher and several para-educators. Each child is also assigned a “regular classroom”…they attend P.E., music, library, and art with their regular classroom.

    My son, having progressed as far as he has, also has a couple of other classes (such as social studies) with the regular 4th grade classroom, and is helped by a para-educator if they need it. The district also employs several speech therapists and reading specialists that move from school to school, and my son attends at least two of each of these classes a week. They use the kindergarden playground, which is fenced in and has slides and swings.

    There are two other children in his “Lifeskills 2″ class that are autistic. I don’t know what the other children’s special needs are…his best friend, a girl, appears to not have any special needs at all, and one of the boys needs the constant care of a para-educator, so there is a mix of special needs.

    The only time our son doesn’t want to go to school is the first couple of weeks after summer vacation, and the first couple of weeks after winter vacation…he’d rather stay home with mom and little sister. Otherwise, he loves school.

  3. M.Squirrelon 05 Nov 2008 at 9:05 am

    Sorry about the double post….silly laptop.

  4. Sarahon 05 Nov 2008 at 9:07 am

    I’m so sorry this is happening! I don’t have specific suggestions exactly, but know that there are local school buildings sitting empty due to new buildings/ Catholic school closings, etc. Example: Supposedly Doane Stuart will be moving (or has moved?) into a former elementary school in Rensselaer- it might make sense to contact them to see if either the new or old building is temporarily available. Religious schools often have empty space- might want to call all the Catholic schools around and see if any of them can accommodate you. Also, I used to teach at Maimonides- at the time it was located in Ohav Shalom (in Albany) but has since moved; a number of churches/ synagogues like that have significant classroom space that might be going unused.

  5. […] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Local Folks - Any Ideas? Well, the good news is that the Bush regime is on its way out, and maybe later I’ll write more about that, but for now, I’m hoping to use the tremendous knowledge of my readers just one more time. […]

  6. ctdaffodilon 05 Nov 2008 at 10:42 am

    Sharon - I feel for you. Poor Eli too….My 3rd grader would absolutely collapse if there were interuptions in his services at school. I will keep you and all those kids at the school in our prayers if it would help.

  7. j.r. guerra in s. tx.on 05 Nov 2008 at 1:19 pm

    No idea what to suggest, only want to sympathize with you. My 10 year old son is PDD (mildly autistic) and is serviced by our local public school. They have done a pretty good job (though his present teacher we feel does not challenge him to do his best), so I’d start there with the local school district special education department and ask them. Perhaps a religious private school - some of them in our area have begun to service children who are mainly mainstreamed.

    I know what you mean with disruptions in their lives causing some chaos. This past Monday, Grandma went to his school to see how he was doing in class, hanging around to see how the lesson was going. When she left, my son was pretty upset - he thought Grandma showing up was a que for him to be leaving with her, poor kid. The rest of the morning, he was extremely upset - not screaming / crying, but not paying attention to his ’shadow’ or teacher. My son and Grandma are extremely close, as you can see. So that is one of eleventy thousand things that have proven to me - disrupting their lives is not recommended.

    I wish I could be of more help - our prayers for your son and his classmates to find a great solution to your predicament.

  8. Fernon 05 Nov 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Some of the newer local churches and synagogs might have facilities that are rentable - if they classrooms for religious classes that are used only on weekends and late afternoons/evenings. Older religious buildings are likely to have accessability problems, but newer ones might not.

    Maybe some community or senior centers might have available room as well.

    Sharing space is pretty common in my area, especially after building fires or floods. A church has Sunday afternoon services at my son’s synagog, his bar mitzvah class did fundraisers for a local church that was destroyed by fire, and one area community built its community centers so that they would be used as places of worship on weekend mornings.

    Fern

  9. Jesseon 05 Nov 2008 at 2:08 pm

    I don’t know how much help I’ll be, as I don’t live anywhere near there, but I want to second the “ask the Catholic Churches/schools” idea - I grew up in Missouri, and EVERY (and I do mean EVERY) Catholic Church in the Midwest that I ever saw had not only the church building, but also a close (if not attached) secondary building which (if not currently used for that purpose) had been a school at one time, and was often sitting empty during the day, except in cases of various meetings through said church (which were sometimes moved IN the church if the building was otherwise borrowed). Every single one of these buildings also had a playground area near, as well as more than just one room (or, if there were one room, it would have more than one of those huge sliding partitions).

    I don’t know about in the Northeast, but where I grew up in Missouri, they would either rent the building for cheap, or in cases of need would loan it out, no strings attached (meaning, you didn’t have to actually have anyone Catholic to use it). If the Northeast is anything like the Midwest, that (or another church with connected playground) would be the first place I’d look, as most have areas where you can be rambunctious without worrying about accidents (very important for those post-wedding inebriations *grin*).

  10. Anion 05 Nov 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Don’t know the area but would second(third) the motion to look at area churches that have Sunday schools or synagogues with afternoon hebrew schools- those spaces could be perfect. Also- are there any Boy’s and Girl’s clubs or YMCA facilties around? ; these often are only used after school.

    Also- not as perfect but possible would be stores that have closed- I know a mall out here- the only one in fact within an hour or so- has had many of their stores close- perhaps some of the stores could be used as a temp school if you’ve had the same thing happening near you. Also library conference rooms, hospital conference rooms-can’t hold the whole school but 1 classroom each.

  11. Green Hill Farmon 05 Nov 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Ani took my suggestion :) an empty store or an empty office building etc. Yesterday I went by an empty neat big ish small office or light industry building it would be the right size for small school (in Massachusetts though).

    Good luck, Beth

  12. Sharonon 05 Nov 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Hi Everyone - Thank you so much for the suggestions. I did ask them to contact the Catholic Diocese - that’s a great idea. I’m also querying my local school district, which closed an elementary school a couple of years ago. I don’t think an industrial building or breaking the system up will work, at least not in the short term - the school has its own in-house service providers for PT/OT/Speech, etc… and it wouldn’t be possible for them to cover 10 classrooms in 10 locations. I’ve thought of our synagogue’s Hebrew school, but there are two problems - first, all the food brought in for the kids would have to be kosher, and second, the school would have to be out by 4pm, and they provide daycare for a lot of parents who can’t get any other kind of childcare for these kids. I think an industrial location might not be real safe for kids who can’t be trusted - even an office building might be tough given some of the safety issues. I’m hoping we can find things with an appropriate space for indoor play/gym/PT and classrooms - but it may come to that if what is needed finally is that they take anyting acceptable.

    Sigh.

    Sharon

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