District 20 to add 100 seats for kids with special needs
District 20 says that within two years it will be able to provide an adequate number of seats for middle-school students who have special needs.
The district includes Bay Ridge, Borough Park, Dyker Heights and the southern part of Sunset Park.
The students are part of District 75, a citywide district for kids who have significant challenges, such as autism spectrum disorders, cognitive delays, emotional disturbances, sensory impairments and multiple disabilities.
There is currently a shortage of District 75 middle-school seats in District 20 schools, but about 100 more spots will be available by 2024, when the new I.S. 322 opens at the former Nathan’s site, 650 86th St., and when renovations are completed at the former site of Our Lady of Guadalupe School, 1514 72nd St.
“Equity of opportunity is at the core of everything we do,” said DOE spokesperson Nicole Brownstein. “Ensuring that every District 75 student living in District 20 will have access to the highly specialized instruction they need is a major achievement in ensuring equitable access for our students with the most significant disabilities.”
“When coming onboard as superintendent, it was immediately evident that we needed to prioritize closing the seat gap for some of our most vulnerable students,” said District 20 Superintendent Dr. David Pretto. “With the creation of these middle-school D75 seats, we can look to an immediate future where no D75 students residing in District 20 will need to ride a bus out of the district to go to school.”
Councilmember Justin Brannan said that as new public schools are built to address overcrowding, the district must commit to providing a high-quality learning environment for all students.
“Credit goes especially to all the parent advocates who worked so hard to help make this happen,” Brannan said. “You spoke up and we listened and that’s how this is supposed to work.”
“This was a clear case of parent voices raising attention to an issue, being heard and getting results,” said Stephen Stowe, president of the District 20 Community Education Council. “As special education advocates know very well, we must strive to provide services for students right here in District 20, reducing travel burdens on families and ensuring that all children are part of the broader District 20 community.”
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