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Parents raise concerns about program at Kent school

In a collaborative effort, the Kent School District, Springbrook Elementary School staff and the school's Parent-Teacher Association will examine issues raised by parents concerning a program for kids with special needs at the school.

Parents recently have expressed concerns about children in the School Adjustment (SA) Program at Springbrook disrupting other classrooms and assaulting staff at the school.

The SA Program supports students with disabilities that fall under categories around behavior. It provides support, instruction and strategies to support the student learning in that particular area. Once they have mastered certain strategies, students can access core instruction in the general education setting.

The issue came up as an agenda item at Monday's PTA meeting. About 18-20 people attended the meeting, including the school's principal, Gaynell Walker, the PTA board, about five parents and an instructional aide, according to Gail Surwill, a school improvement officer for the district.

Kim Halley, the executive director of inclusive education services, also attended the meeting.

Todd Smith has a kindergartner at Springbrook. He says there have been several questionable incidents at the school that make him wonder about school security and the proximity of the SA Program to kindergarten classrooms.

"My son has asked my wife and I if we would hire a bodyguard," Smith said of his son's response to recent incidents.

Smith has heard reports of kids in the program coming into a kindergarten room and disrupting it, volunteers being hurt by students in the program and fights spilling into the hallway.

"There are so many incidents we're ready to start removing our kids from the school district," said Smith last week.

This week at the PTA meeting, school and district officials heard parents' concerns.

The issue revolves around how you integrate children with special needs into regular classrooms and the understanding of that process, Surwill said.

She called the meeting "great" and said there was "great listening" by all those involved.

"It was a very collaborative conversation that took place," Surwill said.

The result of the meeting is an action plan that calls for school staff, district leadership and the PTA to look at communication and student safety, she said.

The group broke down safety into two components: emotional safety and physical safety.

The three groups plan to meet Jan. 22 to revisit the topic after each has done more "homework," Surwill said.

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