A local advocacy group for students with special needs is asking members for their top three education priorities for the current academic year and beyond. The group plans to forward the data to the School Committee in about a month, according to one member.
Karen Burtnett of the Melrose Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SpedPAC) told the Committee on Tuesday that she couldn't speculate on what those priorities might be at this point.
But she said that SpedPAC continues to support each school in the district, with a volunteer at each location available to answer parents' questions.
"I think it's a really nice support for families," Burtnett said.
The group is also holding monthly workshops for all parents at the Melrose High School library.
"Anybody can come," Burtnett said. "They're not restricted to families with special needs students. The workshops are intended to benefit as many people as we can."
The next workshop, scheduled for next Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m., will feature the principals of the Roosevelt School, Lincoln School, and Franklin School. They'll discuss the current early childhood initiatives at their facilities.
Asked about the success of the inclusion model in the district - whereby special needs students are placed in regular classrooms with aides - Burtnett gave it high marks on Tuesday.
She said she recently attended a conference in which researchers presented data suggesting that students with Down syndrome performed better in conventional classrooms, since they picked up language skills they wouldn't necessarily receive in a school for challenged youths, where the focus often centers around basic life skills.
And, Burtnett said, the researchers suggested that students without special needs often benefit emotionally from the arrangement.
"It's exciting, the research that's out there now," she said.