Our school district representatives informed parents and faculty that they will recommend our elementary share its school site with a K-8 charter school. This would add 180 non-community students to our school site. The charter school would take 11 classroom spaces and share our common areas including the cafeteria, auditorium, and playgrounds. If the school board approves this recommendation, we will be the only school offered as a potential site to share space with this charter school.
Here is a letter I wrote to a school board member to demonstrate the effects of adding a charter school onto our campus (the name of the school has been changed):
Dear Board Member:
You’ve probably already received letters from many parents like me at Johnson Elementary. But, let me just tell you that I am not just any parent. We are parents with dwarfism who has a child with dwarfism too. I am writing you today to express my strong opposition to the recommendation that a charter school be located at Johnson Elementary for the next academic year and beyond.
Here is how it will affect my child and family at Johnson:
- Safety and Overcrowding: 180 new students would increase traffic, over-crowd parking, and raise safety concerns with two shared campuses.
- At less than 3 feet tall, my son already has a difficult time maneuvering safely in a large crowd.
- Since starting at Johnson, I’ve worked tirelessly to make sure he is safe.
- Increasing traffic would mean that I would have a difficult time getting him safely to class.
- The school allows us to park on the school lot with our disabled placard, but it is still difficult to park in a disabled spot (only 3 available) or even close to the building.
- The over 600 students at Johnson have already become familiar with our son and family because we work to educate the students about dwarfism. We do presentations at the classrooms every year for Dwarfism Awareness Month (October).
- Placing these 180 students at Johnson would mean having to teach that the word “midget” is not an acceptable word for us as Little People. I can and will educate these students, because I have to and need to as a parent and advocate for Little People. But, until I reach all those classrooms, my son will have to endure the stress of being called midget by dozens of children who do not know about dwarfism.
- Loss of Space for Enrichment Programs: We would lose 11 classroom spaces at Johnson, with potential loss of space for Art Corps, Computer Labs, Super Science and the PTA office.
- Losing these classrooms could mean also losing accessible space for my son and others with disabilites.
- We cannot afford to lose these spaces. It would mean that potentially the spaces like our sensory lab, pull out rooms, and resource classroom would get smaller. Children with a spectrum of disabilities need these spaces.
- Art and technology are what also brings together children with disabilities at the same playing field as typical children. Losing this space would heavily impact my son who claims himself as an artist and brilliant scientist.
- Shared Common Areas: The auditorium, cafeteria, playgrounds, assembly courtyard, and school entrances and exits will be shared. Our access to these facilities will be reduced proportionally, including changing lunch schedules and our music and art programs will be impacted.
- As I’ve already said, we’ve already worked hard with the school to make sure Johnson is safe for our son.
- Accessibility goes beyond making modifications.
- If the space becomes smaller for students of average height to maneuver around, that means less space for children with disabilities to be safe.
- Division of Campus: The Johnson campus may need to be divided into two separate campuses which would require a reconfiguration of existing classrooms including the potential loss of upper-grade classrooms with permanent technology enhancements such as Promethean boards.
- Technology is a must for any child to succeed nowadays.
- The Promethean boards are already being “squished” in our classrooms.
- Less space for these boards means also less space for our children to succeed.
- Here is an article that shows that school design affects a child’s ability to learn.
- Disciplinary Concerns: Charter school students are a separate student body and not under authority of our principal and teachers.
- If I need to deal with a separate student body to advocate for my son, it means I have to get to know a whole other campus and their means of tolerance.
- Yes, we do not tolerate bullying at school, but it happens. And if it happens to my son, I will have to work with two principals and two sets of teachers to identify the students and actions to stop it.
- Academic Disruption: Different learning styles may bring about disruption in classroom learning, test-taking and academic excellence at Johnson with our tradition of high API scores.
- As I’ve mentioned, more students on campus means more people to teach about dwarfism awareness.
- More students will definitely disrupt my child’s ability to learn and be in a safe environment.
- Our environment is everything as people with dwarfism. We learn to adapt to our enviornment. However, it is unfair for one child to take on that stress of changing his environment again after 3 years of fighting to make it a safe and welcoming.