Popular special-needs school faces an inevitable transition

Boston College’s Campus School has been an invaluable educational resource for severely disabled students and their parents for more than four decades. Yet, in what should be seen as good news, fewer and fewer families appear to need the unique private school — enrollment has dropped to 38 this year from 47 students in 2007. BC now believes Campus School students will be best served by a merger with a similar program nearby, Brighton’s Kennedy Day School. That may well prove true, but it’s also vital to hear out the concerns of parents opposed to the move.

Finding the right school for one’s child can be a challenge for any parent, but for parents of special-needs students, it can be especially daunting. Almost no family would automatically welcome change once they’ve found a place where their child has thrived. Nonetheless, plans to explore a partnership with the Kennedy Day School may be the only option to keep the Campus School afloat. Such private programs were once havens for families with few other choices, but more and more districts today try to find public-school solutions for students with special needs. This trend is expected to only continue, and that will mean both fewer students and education dollars for private institutions. The Campus School, for instance, relies on $70,000 in public funds per pupil, meaning it must now deal with higher costs amid declining enrollments. The Kennedy Day School, with only 70 students, is also under capacity.

Under the merger, the Campus School’s faculty and volunteers would continue to teach at the Kennedy Day School’s state-of-the-art facility — a renovation completed in 2012 includes a sensory room, therapy pool, and improved assistive technology — at Franciscan Hospital for Children, less than two miles from the BC campus. It’s the move from an academic environment to a hospital campus that appears to worry many of the current Campus School parents. That’s understandable; many of these kids already spend more than their fair share of time at medical facilities.


But Campus School’s director, Don Ricciato, personally reached out to each family before news of the merger broke to try to address such concerns. Open houses are being held to let parents tour the Kennedy Day School, and community meetings planned to solicit family input. If the merger proceeds, BC officials should maintain these efforts in order see all students involve continue to thrive.