So with everything that’s happened to get to this point, you’d think that everything was done for the new school year. The Monster was determined to need a non-public placement, we’d seen a couple of schools, and so it’s like anything else – go pick up your transfer packet and show up at the new school, right?
Moving to a non-public placement is actually a fairly involved process, and I’d admit that I don’t know the whole thing myself. What I do understand is that it looks something like this:
- The child’s current school prepares the offer packet for the non-public schools. This includes the now-finalized IEP and any other appropriate documentation to let the school know what they’re getting into with the child. They have ten business days to do this.
- The packet is sent to the district’s central office. The central office then sends it out to the appropriate non-public schools that are accredited with the state for such work, and have open spots for the school system.
- The schools individually respond to the central office with whether or not they’re willing to admit the child. This often involves having the student come for a screening visit, which… offers more problems due to timing.
- If one school accepts, great, you’re in! If more than one… well, I don’t know what happens here. One might assume that the schools could ask the parents if they have a preference, but my assumption is that they simply decide, and may take things that were said at prior meetings regarding a preference into consideration.
The IEP meeting where everything was finalized was on July 29th. Ten days was Thursday last week. HASA’s Gateway School goes back into session on Monday, and the Shafer Center returns on Tuesday. (Baltimore City schools resume on the 31st – the Monday of the week after.) There’s not a lot of time for the schools to get back to the city with information about whether the Monster would be starting there on-time or not… and that to me smacks of a FAPE violation if there’s a delay.
So on Monday morning, I tried to reach the Special Education folks at the schools to find out the status of the process. This was an exercise in futility – despite assurances that the schools had made to the Maryland Disability Law Center regarding making it easier for parents of disabled students to get in touch with Special Education, I spent a grand total of 40 minutes on hold, and was twice routed to the wrong queue. I finally demanded to speak with the Ombudsman (who was unavailable), and fired off an email to her instead to complain about the matter.
But Tuesday afternoon, I received a call back from the director of the office of non-public placement – she’d stepped out of a session with the CEO of Schools to respond directly with the information that while she did not know where the packet was in the process, she’d find out for me PDQ and have the non-public liaison who was working on the Monster’s case call me first thing in the morning with an update. (The Shafer Center called on Monday as well to tell us that they had received the packet from the city.)
And on Wednesday morning, the liaison did call with an update – the Monster had been placed, with HASA’s Gateway School, and would begin on the following Monday morning. Further, she let me know that Transportation would also call to let us know what the arrangements would be, and that they would be moving as fast as they could to ensure that he can start on the first day of school there. (Transportation called shortly thereafter with the bus timing.) I received the letter later in the afternoon, confirming that he had been placed at Gateway, and… well, it’s done.
Now, we still have to find out what steps we need to take between now and the start of school, so it might still get interesting…