After two years of going head to head with the New York City Department of Education, Marine Park Junior High School (I.S. 278) has finally been granted the go-ahead to house an ASD NEST Placement Program for higher functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder students in the school.
The sought-after program, set to open in September 2012, will be welcomed after the lengthy David and Goliath battle, which pitted frustrated parents, District 22 school officials, local pols and community leaders against the daunting New York City Department of Education (DOE). More than fighting for a new program, administrators had to battle off a slew of previous proposals for the school at 1925 Stuart Street, including housing a high school, elementary school or a Hebrew-language charter school in the same building, plans that were met with resounding jeers.
“It’s been a long and, at times, confrontational journey, and I am thrilled that the needs of the community are finaliy being given the credibility that’s deserved,” said Councilman Lew Fidler, who, along with State Senator Marty Golden and Assemblyman Alan Maisel, worked closely with administrators in sparring with the DOE. “I am thrilled that we have prevailed. This is truly a sweet victory.”
With the alarming rate of one in every 150 children being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and no other intermediate school NEST programs in all of Southern Brooklyn, I.S. 278 Principal Debbie Garofalo fought for the program to come to her school. The DOE’s ASD NEST Program currently serves more than 400 children since its September 2003 inception, in more than 20 sites. While the program is already operating in District 22 elementary schools, middle school-aged children must travel across the borough.
“This is a victory for all of School District 22, and I hope that the two sections which will be added in September, will be the start of a successful program designed around educating our children in need,” said Golden.