Boston College announced last November that it was considering an affiliation between the Campus School, which educates students with multiple disabilities from ages 3 to 21, and the Kennedy Day School (KDS) at the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton. The Campus School, which was founded in 1970, is currently housed in Campion Hall on BC’s main campus, and serves 38 students. The University has cited the “changing landscape of special needs education” as a reason for considering the affiliation, noting that public schools are referring fewer and fewer students to private institutions each year. Administrators assert that this is a trend that will soon require partnerships of this kind among many of the special education programs in the nation. Should the affiliation go through, KDS’s recently renovated facilities would house the combined schools, giving the Campus School students and staff access to more space and superior equipment.
Despite volunteering few details after the announcement, the University initially purported a willingness to converse with the BC community about the potential partnership with KDS. The Nov. 14 press release from the Office of News and Public Affairs emphasized Campus School Director Don Ricciato’s readiness to meet with Campus School parents, and with BC students and volunteers. On Nov. 21, BC’s official Facebook page also posted a link to the same press release on the student-created Facebook page “Support for Boston College Campus School,” stating a desire to reach out directly to the page’s supporters. In a response to a student’s comment on its link, BC further stated that “a joint advisory committee has been formed to lead the review process, and we will provide additional information as it becomes available.”
Since then, the University has done little to uphold that promise of transparency: according to chairwoman of the Parent Advisory Committee Kristen Morin, BC ’86, multiple attempts by parents to meet with administrators and discuss the potential move have been met without much response from the University. Last Thursday, Jan. 16, was the first meeting between administrators, parents, and representatives of the Campus School Volunteers of BC (CSVBC) since the initial informational sessions given by Ricciato in November.
The University’s manner of relaying information on its decision process up to this point has created an atmosphere of uncertainty and frustration. This reticence on the part of administrators to respond quickly to parents is obfuscating the real issue: which future scenario will most benefit the students currently enrolled at the Campus School. The ultimate decision on the Campus School’s future does reside with the University’s administration, but the parents, who serve as their children’s advocates, deserve the chance to actively weigh in on the matter and to be thoroughly appraised of the timeline and details of any future changes. The University’s intimations that it is ready to coordinate with the CSVBC should the move become a reality are commendable, but largely miss the point of volunteers’ and parents’ concerns-that a move may not ultimately be in the students’ best interests.
Perhaps leaving the Campus School in Campion Hall will best serve its students, or perhaps a move to Kennedy Day School will significantly improve the students’ experience. Regardless, the parents of the Campus School students are the group most qualified to speak on behalf of their children’s needs and what scenarios will be most beneficial, and must be included in the process. Despite growing tension surrounding the potential move, it is critical for the proponents of each outcome to put the needs of the Campus School students ahead of all others’-the well-being of the students must remain the foremost concern for all involved.