Parents fear for future of W. Ashley special needs school

Parents fear for future of W. Ashley special needs school

WEST ASHLEY SC (WCSC) - Local parents are speaking out over worries a West Ashley school for kids with special needs may be forced to close.

Parents of students from Pattison's Academy for Comprehensive Education, or PACE, said they received emails this week that the school may be too costly for Charleston County School District to operate.

"We have gone into the summer thinking 'yeah, we have a school to go to next year,' and just the other day we get an email saying it's probably not going to happen," Jill Smith said.

PACE was created as a charter school in 2010 for students with mental and physical disabilities, offering education as well as therapy services at its site on Bees Ferry Rd. The school serves around 30 students K-12.

Some parents said the district led them to believe the school was definitely going to stay in West Ashley for another year, keeping kids together.

"We were basically holding on to June 30," Smith said "All of the correspondence was positive, saying the school district was going to work with us. We don't want to see our children torn apart from each other. They've grown together for a few years now."

"The challenges involved in achieving their full potential are more complex and more expensive than we as a society are accustomed to managing," PACE board member Dr. Richard Gross said.

"I know the difference Pattison's Academy has made in the lives of a number of these children who were under my care when I was practicing here.  The model developed by PACE is very good for these children," Gross said. "There is a need for documentation of the difference it can make.  We don't have scientific data now, but that should be the next priority."

Gross said board members are still awaiting further information from the district. "CCSD is part of the society that is struggling with this new set of challenges, and it is taxing their resources at a most untimely time for them," Gross said.

According to Charleston County School District, no final decision has been made in the fate of the school. The district released the following statement Friday:

"PACE was a charter school that was experiencing financial challenges. PACE voluntarily submitted their charter. The district
welcomes the students who were at PACE and is working collaboratively and in the spirit of partnership with the PACE leaders to ensure excellent services that meet or exceed the requirements of state and federal laws at a reasonable cost per child. CCSD is still in the process of making final decisions and confirming all costs related to serving the students who attended PACE. Once a final a decision is made, and the budget has
been discussed with the CCSD Board of Trustees, we will share the information publicly."

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