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Parents give input on special needs programs ahead of transition to Kent ISD

Empty classroom
Kevin Wong
Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0
Empty classroom

The Kent Intermediate School District wants input from parents and staff as it prepares to absorb special education and early childhood programs from Grand Rapids Public Schools.

GRPS decided to transfer these programs to the Kent ISD last month.

Parents see an opportunity to improve a few things about the special needs programs during this change. One issue that was raised was consistency.

Kathie Oakes is a grandparent of a student in the special needs program at the Pine Grove Learning Center.

She worries that the transition will bring more instability to her grandson’s learning.

“My other grandchildren adjust much more easily, but it’s a bit more regimented with my grandson,” Oakes said.

Oakes and other parents have said that the programs already lack stability.

Beth Steenwyk, the consultant with the Kent ISD helping with the transition, says that change can cause some issues with students with complex learning needs.

“That’s why we are having these sessions. Because so much will go into making the transition happen, we have to remember the kids come first,” Steenwyk said.

Another issue that parents mentioned was communication. This issue specifically was talked about as something GRPS needs to improve on as a whole, but in regards to special needs students, it can really hinder some progress.

Laura Kitts, the parent of a student in one of the programs that will be transitioning, says parents often learn about issues at the schools from word of mouth.  

“So that’s pretty much common in the special needs community, that parents find out things by other parents and not by administrators,” Kitts said.

Kitts is optimistic that the Kent ISD will establish more continuity with her kid’s program.

“I’m actually excited about the change, I think it is for the best for everybody,” she said.

About 1,400 students and 400 staff members will be effected by this transition that is set to happen in July 2019.  

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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