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After pushback from parents, BC nixes proposal to relocate school for youths with disabilities

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  February 13, 2014 12:37 PM

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After pushback from parents, Boston College announced Thursday it has stopped exploring a proposal to relocate a longstanding on-campus school for children and young adults with disabilities to another site a few miles away.

In November, BC announced that it was in the early stages of exploring a potential plan to move the Campus School by merging it with the Kennedy Day School at the Franciscan Hospital for Children nearly three miles away in Brighton.

University officials said at the time that the Kennedy Day School’s new 20,000-square-foot facility would offer better amenities and programs for children in the Campus School, which had seen enrollment dip in recent years.

But parents, who said they were caught off-guard by the proposal, objected. They pleaded -- including through an online petition with nearly 4,500 signatures -- for BC leaders to reconsider saying that a key reason they chose the Campus School was for the unique culture and environment it offers by being located at a college. That aspect would be lost on a hospital campus, parents feared.

On Thursday, the BC administrators announced that they have reached a deal with Campus School parents to collaborate on a strategic plan to strengthen the school at its current location.

Both sides will work to find ways to increase enrollment, including by utilizing parent ambassadors and better marketing efforts to promote the school. And, steps will be taken to balance the school’s budget, including through fundraising that officials hope will also help pay for capital improvements to the school and better wages for staff there.

Officials said administrators and parents talked extensively to reach the agreement.

“These discussions have been very helpful as they have given Campus School parents a better understanding of the issues facing the school, while giving Boston College a greater appreciation of their commitment to preserving and strengthening the program,” said a statement from interim provost Joseph Quinn.

The Campus School parents asked for an opportunity to keep the Campus School at BC, increase enrollment and balance the school’s budget, and we have agreed to give them this opportunity,” Quinn added. “We are all committed to making this plan work.”

Kristen Morin, a leader of the Parent Advisory Committee to the Campus School, said she has “100 percent confidence” that the plan will lead the school to “thrive in the years to come.”

“We plan to take all of the reasons that we love our school and translate them into a sustainable program on behalf of the Campus School,” she said in a statement.

The Campus School, a private, publicly-funded special education school serves students ages 3 to 21 who have severe disabilities. Housed in Campion Hall, it has operated on BC’s Chestnut Hill campus since its founding 44 years ago.

Campus School director Don Ricciato described the deal to keep the school at BC as a “win-win” for the university and the school.

“We all want what is in the best interest of our students, and we hope that this plan will enable us to continue to provide them with an excellent education within an even better Campus School,” he said in a statement.

In addition to its full-time staff, the school is helped by a network of BC student volunteers.

BC senior Chris Marino is the co-president of the Campus School Volunteers of Boston College organization.

“The Campus School Volunteers are grateful for the opportunity to work with Boston College in our efforts to not only keep the Campus School on the Heights, but to help it thrive and grow into the strongest program possible,” he said in a statement. “We are excited to continue working towards a sustainable future for the program.”

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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