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Van Nuys special-ed school may close

April 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A school that has been providing for the special needs of children for more than four decades could be shut down at the end of the school year. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) blames declining enrollment.They call her a miracle: Kawehana Mooney was adopted as a baby, brain-damaged by drugs.

"Doctor said she would not walk, talk, eat, and that she was failure to thrive," said Kahea Mooney, Kawehana's foster mother. "That she was most likely not going to make it within the year."

Kawehana's health improved, but social skills ... "Tantruming and screaming and yelling, clawing and yelling," said Kahea.

She was kicked out of kindergarten after attacking her teacher. A program at West Valley Special Education Center turned around that violent behavior.

Now, just as the Mooneys and other parents see so much progress in their students, West Valley may close. The school district needs to save millions of dollars during this budget crisis. Special-education teachers will be spared, but they say they will be hampered if they have to move to a different facility. The team they have built over decades would be disbursed.

"They would be breaking us up as a staff," said lead teacher Roberta Mann. "The whole staff would not be consolidating to another school."

LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said: "I have not made a decision. I am reviewing recommendations regarding keeping the school open, consolidation or closing the school, but there is no final decision."

Max Rosen has multiple disabilities.

"Our greatest fear is of course that our child won't have the future that he deserves," said Victoria Rosen, Max's mother. "That he won't get the services, he won't get the assistance, he won't get the life that he deserves."

Even if the superintendent does decide to shut down the school, the parents say they will not give up. They will lobby the school board and rally the community. They say student progress must not be compromised.


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