Special ed students at Shadd, Hamilton to move

May 3, 2011

DCPS is moving most of two special education programs for emotionally disabled students, currently housed in separate buildings, into regular neighborhood schools.

The Transition Academy@Shadd, which serves about 70 students in grades 9 through 12 on East Capitol Street SE, will close at the end of the school year and move to self-enclosed space at Ballou High School. The 90 or so students in grades 1 through 8 at Hamilton Center on Brentwood Parkway NE will be split: Middle-schoolers will move to Ron Brown Middle School and elementary-age students to Prospect Learning Center, a Pre-K-8 special education school in Northeast Washington.

Richard Nyankori, deputy chancellor for special education, said cost savings are not an objective, and that Hamilton will remain open to house the CHOICE Academy, which serves student on long-term suspension.

He said the main goal is to increase inclusion opportunities for older students who are ready. “The big part is making sure that kids who have the opportunity to transition to the least restrictive environment can do it,” Nyankori said.

Ballou was a natural fit for the Shadd students, he said, because most of them live in the Ballou attendance zone, and Ballou principal Rahman Branch “has considerable experience and expertise in working with students with ED.”

The moves continue an effort by Nyankori to place special education students in closer contact with non-disabled peers. Last year, DCPS closed its program for special education grade-schoolers at the Jackie Robinson Center.

Shadd, opened in 2008 under former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, never lived up to expectations as a place to treat some of the District’s most emotionally fragile children. Clarence Sundram, one of the court-appointed monitors overseeing aspects of the city’s special education system, dubbed the school “a disaster” soon after it opened. The school was plagued by inadequate staffing and poor planning. The District also faces a lawsuit from a former Shadd student who became pregnant by a teacher at the school.

Asked if it was fair to say that Shadd did not work as planned, Nyankori said the school had many excellent staff, but added: “It’s fair to say that we could have done much better than we have.”

DCPS says Hamilton parents who want to discuss the move with special education staff can come to the school tomorrow (Wednesday) between 3:30 and 6 p.m.

An open house for parents to visit Prospect and/or Ron Brown is set for June 1, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Shadd parents can speak with special education staff at the school May 12 between 3 and 4:40 p.m. An open house for parents to visit Ballou is June 8 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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