So, after deciding that preschool was our next step after Oia ages out of EI in August, I scheduled a brief meeting in mid-March with the only special education preschool (that I know of) in our county. Our EI coordinator, the head preschool teacher, the school's speech therapist, another lady though I don't remember her role, Oia, and myself attended the meeting. Basically, the meeting was the initial step in the referral process and an overview of how the system works. Given Oia's diagnosis, she qualifies for special ed services. I had no doubts about that. I felt relieved after meeting the team. My nerves dissolved and I felt excited about the transition...that is until I stepped foot into the preschool classroom.
Let me preface this by saying that I am fully aware of what it's like to be a teacher and have limited space for storage and resources. Also, I am aware of what a classroom may look like at 3pm on a Friday afternoon (which is when our meeting was) after a roomful of kids tear out of the building like bats outta' hell-o because it is finally the weekend. However, the condition of this classroom was unacceptable and very dangerous for my child. Truthfully, it was shocking.
Pathways were not clear, tight, and very narrow. Toys, boxes, bins, storage, and things of the like were stacked at some places higher than my eye level. Stuff and clutter everywhere. To be fair, it probably wasn't really clutter but with little space and organization in effect it classified as clutter to me. One large area of the already tight room was sectioned off as the 'no kid zone'. Oh, no-no-no. I saw all I needed to see from the doorway; I went in no further. Honestly, I couldn't even let Oia down to explore the room on her own for fear of a serious fall, head bang, etc. I'm assuming that my face could have been read like a book since the teacher told me that the classroom was "...about 3 rooms crammed into one." I just kept thinking...how is this going to be safe for my daughter who lives in a wobbly world with limited mobility and less than prefect protective reflexes when she does fall?
I made a few phone calls the following day to the neighboring county to inquire about open enrollment (public school), cost of tuition, etc. I explained our situation without going into too much detail but basically I got the answer I hoped I wouldn't get but was warned I would. Open enrollment is not an option for special education students. Why? The answer I got was because it costs more to fund special education. Not really a good enough answer in my opinion but one I couldn't change. I tried. It was made clear to me that even employees/teachers of A county who live in B county could not even enroll their own children.
So, we're stuck with a cluttered, unsafe preschool? Not quite. I called our EI coordinator to share with her the concerns I had. She too tried to inquire about enrolling Oia in a neighboring county and was turned down as well. She also, with my permission, called the preschool teacher to discuss the condition of the classroom from my point of view. Teacher understood.
Since then, the teacher applied for a grant to help fund the cost of adequate storage which will (I hope) be enough to free up the classroom and provide the least restricted learning environment as possible. Not just for Oia, but for all the students who attend, or will attend, this preschool classroom.
It's really an easy fix; a no-brainer really. Doesn't the condition of this classroom bother the other parents whose preschoolers come to this school each day? Makes me wonder...