The Wayne County Board of Education addressed concerns about the future of Edgewood Community Developmental School during the board comment period Monday night.
Several parents appeared before the board about recent rumblings that the specialized school for developmentally delayed students could be closed.
The topic has been debated in recent months, ever since the construction plan for a new Meadow Lane Elementary School took a turn and did not appear to include the anticipated wing that would house Edgewood students.
The shift raised many questions among staff and parents of those served at the 51-year-old school.
One option mentioned moving pre-kindergarten through fifth grades into the new Meadow Lane while grades 6-12 would relocate to the building occupied by Wayne Academy.
School officials attributed some of the challenges to a million-dollar shortfall in federal funding for developmental day programs.
At a January meeting of the school board’s facilities committee, Wayne County Public Schools Superintendent Michael Dunsmore explained that there had been a steady drop in funding in recent years.
The district’s local funding source, the county commission, also became involved — offering up an agreement last month to continue to support Edgewood and to continue to invest in the school’s operations budget for the next two years. As part of the proposed agreement, the school board would agree to operate the school at its current location for the two-year period while developing a long-term operational plan for those students.
Several parents, some of whom recently addressed the commission, continued their message Monday evening at the school board meeting.
Rachel Radford, calling herself a “volunteer parent advocate in the community,” also has a non-verbal nephew currently attending Edgewood.
She said she has been very confused about the future status of the school, especially if it were to be shuttered. She said her concerns centered around whether other schools could accommodate the students and the cost it would present to the district.
Karla Carter is the mother of a student.
Her son has been at the school since he was 3 years old, she said. Next year, the 21-year-old will age out of the program.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do,” she said, making her plea to the board. “Please, when you’re making a decision about Edgewood School, think about me and these other parents.”
Edward and Stacy Miller, parents of a 17-year-old son at the school, moved here through the Air Force but stayed after retiring because of the school. They recently took their case to the commission and said they simply want to know what the school board plans to do.
“The commissioners have reached out to you guys about funding. We hear nothing. We hear rumors. We read stuff in the paper,” Edward Miller said. “Where are we at? Is this school going to be open next year? Do we have to try to get our son prepared to move to a whole different environment next year?”
His wife referenced the proposal to keep the doors open two more years, asking what the long-term plan might be.
“We would like to hear you vote on that, to know that this can go forward, that this is the plan and our school is going to stay open,” she said, pointing out that putting the students in with the general population is not wise, or safe.
The couple is not against the school district, and Edward Miller volunteered their experience and expertise, saying they are willing to work with the board on the issue.
As the meeting wrapped up with board comments, several mentioned Edgewood.
Board member Len Henderson said the parents’ message would be taken into consideration.
“We cannot at this point make any promises, but please know that your concerns have been heard by particularly me, a member of this board,” he said.
Board member Jennifer Strickland took a strong stance, saying she had raised similar questions and gotten the same answers as parents had.
“The board has not made any decision or taken any position on the future of Edgewood,” she said, explaining that there has been no formal action taken.
She said it is too late in the school year to make a move, but she believes public meetings are in order to gain parental and community input.
Board member Pat Burden reiterated that no formal action has been taken by the board, adding that she is not in favor of splitting the school. As a former principal, she pointed out that “all children do not belong at a traditional school.”
Dunsmore thanked the parents for appearing before the board.
“We haven’t made a decision. We’re looking at all options,” he said. “Having started my career in a developmental day school, I understand there’s just some very tough decisions, both financially, locally, state and nationally, that we have very little control over, so that’s what we’re trying to look at (is) all options and make the best decisions, not only for the students, but I understand the challenges that you all face at home as well.”