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>the PARRCA program, which services our district’s autistic children is on the move again

>As I watched the proceedings at this evening’s Board of Education meeting, I was struck by the story that is unfolding at Somerville. As many of you know, the PARRCA program, which services our district’s autistic children at a major savings to the taxpayers, has been moved around in recent years, most notably with one of the classes moving from Hawes to Ben Franklin. Well, the program is on the move again.

When I first heard of the move, I looked at it like most people would. “Well, if they don’t have room at Somerville, they will place the kids somewhere where they can best be served.” But then the second speaker stepped up to the microphone. She mentioned that space was needed to accommodate students who will be joining the kindergarten class in the fall, as well as current kindergarten students who were temporally placed in schools such as Hawes because of this year’s overcrowding. The speaker asked the board if those children were more important than her child?

Unfortunately, since its inception, the PARRCA program has been seen as just that – a program. A program can move. But these are children. These are children who have made a connection to their school. They attend specials, play on the playground, and have formed relationships with teachers, administrators and other students. They are not just another program.

If you notified me that my child was going to be moved from her school to make room for others, my first call would be to my lawyer. I have a feeling that everyone else reading the blog would react the same way. Why do we feel that disabled kids have less rights than the general population? Do we think that they won’t know that they have changed schools? Do we think that it is justified since some of the students do not live in the Somerville district? Several of them do live in the Somerville district, and even if they didn’t, are they any less important to our community than the others who are slated to take their spots?

There has to be another way. I urge anyone with a thought on this matter to speak up. Let’s shoot for a win-win for everyone, especially for these kids.

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