Special ed students will be kept in same schools

During her elementary school years, 11-year-old Marina Dillard, who has autism, attended five different elementary schools, three of which were in the Medford School District, her mother said.

"My daughter was the classic example of kids who fall through cracks and have to start from scratch," Tracy Dillard said of her daughter's multiple moves from school to school. "The new teacher would have to learn her needs. There was no stability."

Unlike the regular education population, special education students in the Medford district have not had the luxury of staying in one school for their elementary career.

In most cases, special education students had to change schools three times within the district because primary and intermediate classrooms were scattered, located wherever they could fit among the mainstream classrooms. Next fall, that will change: All elementary special education students will be assigned to one school for the duration of their elementary education, said Tania Tong, Medford schools student services supervisor.

"Some students will remain at the same campus they've been at, and some will be moving," Tong said.

The change is intended to provide some sense of stability for the students — but first comes one more major shift.

The changes entail moving a class from Jefferson to Kennedy and moving another class from Kennedy to Abraham Lincoln. A special education program each at Griffin Creek and Abraham Lincoln will move to Hoover. One more program will move from Abraham Lincoln to Hoover, where there is a playground designed for students with disabilities. Parents already have been notified of the changes, Tong said.

The recent renovations and new construction of district elementary schools, paid for with a $189-million bond package from 2006, have created more space for elementary students. That and attendance-zone adjustments enabled the district to root special education students at the same school from kindergarten to the sixth grade, said Medford schools Superintendent Phil Long.

The district has been working on the changes since December, Tong said.

Over the years, parents continually complained about the repeated moves and asked the district to find a way to consolidate the classes at one school. Tracy Dillard said she wishes the changes had come in time for Marina but is glad to see adjustments finally have happened.

"The concern about the need to move to multiple schools during their elementary career was something parents brought up," Tong said. "The neat thing is we were able to address that concern by making adjustments for next year."

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.

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