hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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October 4, 2012

School chief: Buildings 'jam packed' with pupils

New Bradford school would ease overcrowding

While city officials are pushing to build a new school in Bradford for elementary and middle school students, Superintendent James Scully said class overcrowding throughout the district is “the worst it’s been in some time.”

“We have no room at all,” Scully said. “Everything is jam packed.”

Bradford Elementary School may be the most packed building of them all. While there are actually 21 fewer students overall this year compared to last year at Bradford Elementary, the amount of space available for those students has dwindled, partly because of an increase in special needs students. The number of special education students has risen from 134 to 146 in the last year.

Scully said this is a districtwide issue, as most special needs classrooms are 950 square feet and designed to hold about 25 students, but are then limited to about half of that number to accommodate the needs of those children. Scully said that this year, three or four regular classrooms were transformed into special education classrooms.

“We have a growing number of special needs students,” Scully said. “That has caused us to add more special needs classrooms, which need to accommodate fewer students. That, along with computer labs and other specialties, has taken away from regular classroom space.”

Bradford Elementary Principal Wendy Stanley said 25 percent of the children at her school are classified as special education students. She said their biggest need is a "motor room'' for students in their developmental support classes to take a break from regular learning. Currently, those students are forced to share space in a room used by the school’s occupational therapist. A "motor room'' would give these students space to stretch out, walk around and simply take a break from the stress of the classroom setting.

“This is something that is desperately needed, as those students need time out of the classroom to regroup,” Stanley said. “We are meeting the needs of our children, but it would be extremely beneficial if they had a room that would be solely for a break, rather than being a part of the occupational therapy room.”

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