MESA, AZ — Two east Mesa moms are trying to delay the consolidation of a special education program for kids with severe intellectual disabilities.
They say Mesa Public Schools did not seek input from affected families before deciding to close their kids' classrooms at the end of the year. MPS plans to close the SID programs at Wilson and Zaharis Elementary schools and move the kids to two other programs at schools further west, Franklin East and Lowell Elementary.
Kim Miller, mom of first-grader Ben, said the drive time is more than 20 minutes from her home to either remaining SID school. However, she's concerned her son's time on the school bus will stretch to an hour, due to loading and unloading his wheelchair and dropping off other kids.
"Even 10-year-olds can’t handle being on a bus for that long, much less a seven-year-old who has the mental state of about a toddler," Miller said.
Mesa's Executive Director of Special Education Theresa Baca said those ride times were not accurate. "We do not anticipate the bus ride for the students will exceed or reach even close to 30 minutes," she said. "Our target is a 20-minute bus ride."
Another east side mom says the school district plan would be a difficult transition for her fourth grader, Chloe Werner, who has Down syndrome. The district is requiring Chloe to move to her third school in three years.
Nikki Werner says the moves impact her daughter's educational improvement. Werner also says the mainstream students and teachers at the current school, Zaharis, have befriended Chloe and integrated her into the school day in a way that probably can't be replicated.
"I feel like my kid is being segregated and discriminated against because of her needs, and I don’t feel the compassion from Mesa Public School District that I should," Werner said.
Baca said the district will not budge on reducing the SID program to only two campuses due to falling enrollment numbers. At the same time, she has agreed to meet both Werner and Miller face-to-face next week to discuss transportation and other concerns.