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Parent wants autistic child in Kings Park school with sibling

Park View Elementary School, located at 20 Roundtree

Park View Elementary School, located at 20 Roundtree Dr., is for students in kindergarten through third grade. It is one of two elementary schools in the Kings Park Central School District, the other being Fort Salonga Elementary in neighboring Fort Salonga. (June 27, 2012) Credit: Fran Berkman

Kings Park school board officials plan on Tuesday to discuss a father's request that his children -- a general education student and one who is severely autistic -- attend the same elementary school.

"I want my sons to grow up together and go to school together," the father, whose name is being withheld to protect the privacy of his children, said at a school board meeting last month. "I understand there's a lot of legal issues, but there's got to be a way . . . to make the lives easier of certain people in the district that are really having a tough time."

The district is "still in the process of working things out," school board member Liz Barrett said in an interview last week, adding that a report on the reassignment is expected at the meeting from Danielle Colby-Rooney, the district's administrator for pupil personnel services.

"Our administration is working with the family . . . on what would be the best option," Barrett said.

Some programs for special education students are only offered at Fort Salonga Elementary School -- and not at Park View Elementary School, the district's other elementary school -- because there are not enough special education students with the same needs in the district, officials said.

"The problem is we do not have sufficient students to be able to offer both [types of] programs in both schools," said Superintendent Susan Agruso at a July 9 meeting. "It would be too costly at this time -- at a time when we're laying off teachers and raising class sizes."

Still, Agruso said the district would "continue to look at options."

Officials said they were trying to come up with a solution that would avoid legal, logistical and financial issues.

School board president Marie Goldstein said, "We're struggling with it, because we want to be able to do this."

"We are afraid that going forward it is just going to open up a Pandora's box, where we're not going to be able to close it," said board member Charles Leo, describing "parental requests that we are not going to be able to handle as a district; open ourselves up to lawsuits. It's a tough situation."

The father said in an interview last week that he appreciated the board's consideration.

"Their job not only is to protect parents and families, but their job is to protect the district, so I understand both sides of this," he said. "I'm hoping that the district will be able to figure this out."

The school board meeting is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. at Kings Park High School.

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