Special education rift: Parents question moving programs to Twain Harte campus

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat /

A group of parents has rallied against a proposal by the Tuolumne County Office of Education to purchase the Black Oak Elementary School campus to use for special education students.

At the Office of Education's last board meeting on Aug. 11, county Superintendent of Schools Joe Silva informed the board that he had been looking into the purchase of the Twain Harte School District's Black Oak campus to provide a singular location for county special-needs students. Those students are now spread across individual school sites, and many must be transported elsewhere for specialty classes. Children from faraway homes like Groveland must get to class late and leave early to make scheduling work.

County director of special education Jim Frost endorsed the Black Oak idea, saying it would serve students better. But an online petition opposing the plan has gathered more than 300 signatures since it was launched Saturday.

Teri Wilson, the petition's author, said she does not like the idea of a special education-based school. Her 7-year-old daughter with Down syndrome, Adi, gets a great education now at Soulsbyville Elementary, and Wilson is very concerned about any change to that.

Her daughter is completely integrated with regular classes the first two hours of the day before her special classes. "She played basketball … did the jog-a-thon, goes on all the field trips," Wilson said with appreciation.

"I think most of the families (with special needs students) are pretty happy here."

Beyond the stress of re-adjusting to any new school, Wilson doesn't want her daughter going to a campus designed for special needs children where she would feel separated from her peers without special needs.

For the complete story, see the Aug. 26, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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