“We teach our children to have pride in themselves and each other.” –-Michelle Reed, Special Education Teacher
Garrett A. Morgan Elementary houses a Special Education Cluster Program which services children with autism as well as children who are trainable mentally handicapped (TMH). Currently, six classrooms at Morgan are used to educate children with special needs. CPS has labeled Morgan as underutilized, but its utilization formula regards anything smaller than 24 children per homeroom as underutilized. The formula does not take into account class size limits for special education classes, which can be as small as 6-8 children in a classroom, depending on the students’ diagnoses. Morgan’s student body is 20% special needs.
Concerned Parents of Morgan state that they have “concerns that the students of special education services are going to be placed in the receiving school which is not 100% ADA compliant as Morgan is.” Currently, Morgan Special Education lead teachers have been trained to meet the unique needs of all the students in the Cluster Program. Concerned Parents of Morgan explain, “Morgan’s special education students enjoy the use of every floor using our elevators. We are very concerned for their self-esteem and inclusion into a non-disabled setting in the receiving school that has no adequate programs set-up for these students.”
“Please don’t leave out our special education kids because they are somebody too. They need their education and to be fair just as well as a regular student. –Latasha Campbell, Morgan parent and LSC Chair
The receiving school, Ryder, does not have an elevator. With almost 70% of Morgan’s special education students using a wheelchair or crutches, parents are deeply concerned about how their students will function in school if Morgan is closed. Parents are also worried that Morgan’s special education students might be sent to a different school than Morgan’s general education students.
“My son has a disability and I want him to go to the same school as his siblings. If this school closes, my kids will go to a separate school because he has a disability.” –Parent of a student with special needs at Morgan
In addition to an elevator, other building amenities at Morgan include air conditioning, an iPad traveling cart, 6 Smart Boards/Promethean, a large gym and an outdoor area for recess as well as a partnership with the Chicago Park District. The Chicago Park District operates in the building, serving a definite need for activity and engagement in the area surrounding Morgan. Morgan offers many extracurricular activities such as art, dance, choir, Brainiacs (gifted club), film, drumming, cheerleading, Basketball, wrestling, football, volleyball, and Buddy Baseball (inclusive program).
“We have expanded our partnership with the in-house Chicago Park District, and they will now be bringing an after-school arts program for our students, as well as outside students that come to Garrett Morgan for after-school enrichment. Now the Chicago Park District program in our school has a waiting list, a first in years. Parents of students feel safe coming through our doors. We have some of the lowest misconduct stats in the network.” –Justin Reed, one of five Special Education teachers at Morgan
Concerned Parents of Morgan are very worried about what will become of their area of the 21st Ward if Morgan closes:
“Morgan Elementary is the only pride the community has left. There are good people who live among those who use their energy negatively. Garrett A. Morgan Elementary School is the only building in this entire community where the children can go for activities in a safe lovingenvironment before and after school. Sometimes, Morgan school is the only place where these children can get a hot meal, clothes etc. We are the extended family. There are no restaurants in the community, there are no grocery stores providing healthy choices. If CPS allows this closure without our input or voice being heard and/or considered you will leave this community void and lifeless. There are no programs in this distressed community except Morgan Elementary school and the Park District program housed inside of Morgan. This is the desolate area that will be left if Morgan is forced to close.”
According to its website: “Morgan is poised to take additional steps forward this year. In review, our test scores (2011-12) increased 7.2% to reach their highest levels in the ISAT era. Our attendance rate improved 2.6%. Our student code of conduct violations decreased from 103 to 34 last year.”
“Why disrupt something that works? Why disrupt an environment where 50 percent of the staff is new; and yet through hard work, differentiating instruction and dedication, they have pushed 70 percent of the students to exceed or meet the end-of-year NWEA target. Our goal is to offer our students more and more and more. We won’t stop. We can’t. We will exceed every last one of our goals.” –Justin Reed, Special Education Teacher
Post author: Jennie Biggs