School location hazy

For Oak Harbor resident Jan Grossi, the preschool at Oak Harbor Elementary School has been a tremendous help for her daughter, Madison.

Four-year-old Madison, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, received care that has improved her social skills.

“She’s really come out of her shell for other students,” Grossi said.

She hopes that Madison will develop the skills that will allow her to attend kindergarten in a year.

While she is satisfied with the preschool that serves special needs children throughout the district, she’s concerned about its future after it gets broken up into several schools beginning next school year.

As the school district prepares to split the program, Grossi has had trouble finding out how it’s going to affect her child.

“We have a million and one questions that need to be addressed before that change,” Grossi said.

She wants to know sooner rather than later because she wants time to prepare her daughter for the change and make sure the new location can accommodate Madison’s education plan.

Andrea Chase, an Oak Harbor mother whose daughter will be attending the preschool in the fall, is in a similar position.

“I got a resounding ‘I don’t know’ from the school district,” Chase said. “School teachers don’t know what’s going on either and that’s not right.”

Laura Rice, executive director for special programs for the Oak Harbor School District, confirmed that there are plans to break the program up and spread it into other schools in the district.

She added that spreading out the preschool will put students into more familiar surroundings and better acclimate them to the school when they enter kindergarten.

“We just want what’s best for kids,” Rice said, adding the district has an obligation to the kids to make sure they enter kindergarten on as even a plane as possible.

The school district is required to work with developmentally disabled children from when they are toddlers to when they turn 21. Infant children are served by the Toddler Learning Center, then they attend preschool from three years old to five years old.

Rice doesn’t yet know which schools will house the preschool next year. One of the biggest factors in that decision is finding out which buildings have enough room.

She is meeting with parents today to find out their concerns about the change. After that, Rice said she will meet with administration and building principals to decide on how to make the change.

She started working for the Oak Harbor School District in August of 2003. When she came aboard, she said, it was with the understanding that she would spread the preschool program throughout the school district.

While the school district is changing the preschool for special needs students, it is also ending its contract with ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program) that also provides services for such children.

Rice said she felt all students should be served within district schools.

She added that the $43,000 saved by terminating the contract will go to the preschool and help purchase supplies and equipment.

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