My Child needs a new school, what are my options?
Children spend a significant amount of their time in school, so it is important for them to be in a place that is a good fit. Sometimes the local public school (aka ‘community school’) is not the best fit for your child. Perhaps you tried to work with the school but your child continues to struggle academically, socially, emotionally, or behaviorally. If that’s the case, it may be time to look for a different school placement. And knowing your options is the first step towards making that happen for your child.
I want to try a Private School
Private schools, including parochial schools, can be a great fit for some kids, even those with learning challenges. In New York City, there are many different options for private school ranging from your local parochial school to larger day schools. Since these schools are private, they each have their own unique approaches to education, which can provide an important alternative to a student in need of a new learning environment.
Private schools often are able to provide smaller class-sizes, more individualized attention, and many have learning specialists on-staff to help students with learning challenges. Additionally, students can attend these schools and still have an IEP and receive district-funded related services including Speech therapy, Occupational therapy, Physical therapy, Counseling or Assistive Technology (to name a few).
Selecting the right private school for your child with learning challenges can be well, challenging. It is a great idea to go to as many open houses as possible, and to consult with your Child’s Neuropsychologist or another professional who is familiar with your child and with the schools in your area.
I want to try a Charter School
Another Tuition-free option: Charter Schools
In addition to Public Schools (aka your local ‘community school’), there are now hundreds of Charter Schools to choose from. The first charter school was created in 1999. There are currently ~350 charter schools in New York State, 227 of them located within the 5 boroughs.
Like Public schools, Charter schools are tuition-free. Unlike Public Schools, Charter schools have their own admissions process and they are semi-independent of the Department of Education, so they often have different operating hours, different holiday schedules and access to school-specific programs and curriculum that may not be offered at NYC DOE schools.
Are Charter Schools the right choice for my child with learning challenges?
It depends on the student and the school. Most Charter schools are designed to teach typical learners, so they may not be the best fit for students with learning challenges. However, all Charter schools are not the same; there could be one that meets the needs of a particular student.
Make a list of Charter schools that are nearby and attend their open houses. Speak with the admissions people openly about your child’s IEP and learning challenges and find out what resources they have to offer your child that may better meet his/her needs.
My child needs a Specialized School
A ‘specialized’ school is one that is optimized for children with learning challenges. Teachers are required to have degrees in Special education, and staff members often receive specialized training related to the school’s philosophy and/or target population. Different specialized schools exist for different types of students, and space can be tight. In order to be considered for entry, a Neuropsychological evaluation is required.
Approved vs. Non-approved
Moreover, some of these schools are ‘Approved’, which means the state funds the tuition if the district agrees they do not have a suitable academic program. ‘Non-approved’ schools are not automatically funded, so parents have to initiate legal proceedings against the district at the end of each school year for tuition reimbursement.
Do I need to recruit the help of an advocate or an attorney?
Having an advocate or an attorney greatly increases your chances of getting services and/or a new school placement for your child. Oftentimes having an attorney is necessary for parents to receive tuition-reimbursement for placement in a specialized school. When parents are able to prove that the NYCDOE is unable to provide a suitable public option for their child, the district is required to fund the cost of the private school.
If you are unsure about whether your child needs a new school and what steps to take, contact a Neuropsychologist or related professional who is familiar with your local school system and can help you sort through the options.