Mixing adolescents who have cognitive disabilities with those who are pursuing an academically challenging magnet program might sound like a formula for friction.
But when word got out that Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools plans to phase out special education classes at Randolph Middle School, an International Baccalaureate magnet in southeast Charlotte, parents and students geared up to fight.
“Special education students are part of the life and culture at Randolph,” said Vanessa Infanzon, who has a son in Randolph’s special education classroom. She organized a petition drive that has gotten more than 1,500 signatures against the change, and will be among a group of parents and students speaking at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
She did a blog post that included a letter from Lucy Cochran, a former Randolph student who is now at Myers Park High. Cochran writes about how much she and other IB classmates enjoyed working with the special education group for a monthly physical education activity.
“These kids have made a huge impact on my life and I wish that I could hang out with them all the time,” Cochran wrote.
Brian Schultz, chief academic officer for CMS, says the move is part of the district’s ongoing efforts to comply with federal law by providing education for students with disabilities as close to home as possible. The special classes are being phased out of Randolph and Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, a magnet high school, starting with next year’s sixth- and ninth-graders. That means no special-ed students who are already at the schools will be forced to leave, he said.
The move is not linked to the expanded magnet program that’s gearing up for 2017-18, he said. Randolph has only two classrooms set aside for fewer than 20 students with cognitive disabilities. He said he believes that students’ neighborhood schools can provide equally supportive settings.
“I’m glad that they love the program so much” at Randolph, Schultz said.