Monday, February 2, 2015

Requiem for a RECC

Ducketts Lane Elementary school is in its second year of operation and I have taught there both years. I travel to sixteen schools in Howard County teaching music and movement to preschoolers with special needs. The Learning Together program, through which special needs students and typically developing peers are combined in classes by both age and need, is housed within select elementary schools under the name RECC program. This stands for: Regional Early Childhood Center.

I recently learned that I won't be returning to Ducketts Lane next year because the program is being dissolved. The students will be absorbed by other nearby centers, probably most will go to Rockburn. The teachers will be flung into a rather complicated system of reassignment which assures them just about nothing except that they will have an opportunity to have a job.

This just blows my mind. Ducketts Lane is a brand new facility. The classrooms and materials are beautiful. The faculty and staff were drawn together with the specific intent of opening that school and making an outstanding contribution to the lives of their students. And I can vouch for how well the staff works together, and how much progress their students are making. It has been a joy to work there.

So why is this happening? Capacity.

After just two years Ducketts Lane has reached its limit and still more students are coming. Those four beautiful classrooms, occupied by the most vulnerable population in the system, are looking like some mighty appealing real estate for the elementary grades. And so--poof!--just like that, the RECC will cease to exist.

I have plenty to say about how a decision like this treats teachers and support staff like widgets, and also about how difficult it is for special needs children to adjust to change. But a greater issue to me is how we got here in the first place. How did a brand new school reach capacity in just two years? And didn't something similar happen at Veterans?

Something is clearly wrong the process whereby new housing is approved by the county and new schools are built by the system. And let's throw in redistricting while we're at it. I know that I have friends who know much more about this topic than I do. Chime in, please. Tell me why this happened. These children, their teachers and the entire support staff deserved better than this.

We still have a few more songs to sing together. I know I'll make the most of that.


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