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Polk parents worried about future of special needs school

District considering changes at Roosevelt Academy
Posted at 6:51 PM, Feb 21, 2017

A group of parents in Polk County are concerned about possible changes to a Lake Wales School, which currently exclusively serves special needs students.

With bright signs and a clear message, a group of parents protested outside Roosevelt Academy in Polk County. They're angry, over proposed changes to the school which exclusively serves children with special needs.

Michelle Fogelson's 14-year-old son Noah has autism. Before coming to Roosevelt, he was flunking out.

"He always told me how absolutely horrible it was," said Fogelson.

In three years at Roosevelt, she's seen a total turn-around.

"He's completely changed, his whole attitude, the way he looks at the world, how he learns," Fogelson said.

Now she and many other parents worry the Polk County school district could change all that. The board is considering whether to stop Roosevelt's middle school program altogether and add mainstream students at the high school level.

"The problem is when they do that, there's going to become more bullying, and there's going to be more segregation. Right now there is no segregation, all of our kids are friends," said Fogelson.

"The success of the students here is astonishing," said Vicki Iliff.

Vicki Iliff taught at Roosevelt 20 of her 40 years in education..and routinely saw kids go up three grade levels in one year, while also getting job training. She thinks the proposed changes...could hold kids back.

"If you can feel good about yourself, and you can work, and be a contributing member of society, what more can we ask from these kids?" Iliff said.

The district says some change is necessary. Right now, students graduating from Roosevelt earn a special diploma, which the state is getting ride of. But the district insists it's not planning to close the school, only trying to improve it to help every student succeed.  Parents are still pleading to keep things the same.

The board will hold a parent meeting in March and won't make a final decision until April.

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