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Parents of Children with Disabilities Protest Possible Closure of Pre-K School

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TWC News: Parents of Children with Disabilities Protest Possible Closure of Pre-K School
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Come January, a pre-K school in Brooklyn with some 200 students with disabilities is slated to close. Parents and faculty say they are begging the State Education Department to reconsider disrupting the lives of the city's most vulnerable children. NY1’s Cheryl Wills filed this report.

Some 200 preschoolers with disabilities attend The Guild for Exceptional Children's Early Childhood Program in Borough Park. But with word that the beloved 40-year-old school may close in January, both students and parents are worried about the future.

"The fact that the school is going be closed, it has come to the point where my daughter doesn't want to come to school no more,” says one parent.

Administrators say it's all because of a technicality with the state education department. Executive Director Paul Cassone says the state has failed to provide necessary tuition relief so the preschool can function.

"Our rate is significantly below the state average for this type of program and this is one of the things that we're fighting about,” says Cassone.

"Raise us up to a regional average that you’re paying everyone else. We are an organization that has never had a scandal, we are above board in all that we do - why not look at the kids and parents and meet us half way,” says Arlene Rutuelo, president of GEC’s Board of Directors.

Many of the children here have developmental disabilities. Faculty members say uprooting them mid-year would be devastating.

"Imagine how it is on a 3 year old level, 4 year old level. A lot of these kids can't even express their emotions. That's what we're trying to do, so I can't even imagine what that would do mid-year to uproot and change to a different city, different school - it just doesn't make sense,” says Adrian Fernandez, a music therapist.

Parents and faculty are not taking the potential closing of this preschool lying down. They are planning a rally in Brooklyn on December 10.

"I'll be sad because it's my baby - he's used to this school –to his teachers - to his friends my four year old shouldn't be worried if today is his last day of school,” says one parent.

The State Education Department has notified GEC that they will be seeking certified and approved preschool providers to take over their program. But faculty, parents and especially the children, are hoping the new year will bring a new resolution.

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