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March 3, 2010

Bartlett 'not optimal' for special-ed programs

Costly rehab would eliminate savings, director says

The director of Haverhill's special education programs is not sold on an idea to move more than 100 students into the city-owned Bartlett School, saying they would "lose a lot."

Maury Covino, principal of the TEACH program and director of Haverhill's Special Education Department, said School Committee member Joe Bevilaqua's idea to move his program and the Haverhill Alternative School into Bartlett School would likely fail to achieve Bevilaqua's aim of saving the city money and would eliminate necessary components of both programs.

"The Bartlett School, as it exists, is not an optimal setting," Covino said.

The TEACH and Alternative School programs share the St. James School on Primrose Street. Covino said each pays half the annual $229,000 rent to the Archdiocese of Boston, which owns the school as part of St. James Parish. Bevilaqua suggested during a recent School Committee meeting that Superintendent Raleigh Buchanan look into using the Bartlett — recently vacated by the Hill View Montessori Public Charter School — to save the cost of the St. James lease.

Mayor James Fiorentini suggested selling the building before it became an eyesore or worse in its Washington Street neighborhood.

The Alternative School provides an education to roughly 50 middle and high school students who have emotional and behavioral needs not met in the city's other schools, said its principal, John DePolo.

The TEACH program is designed to educate a more seriously disabled population that includes about 55 children of all ages with physical and intellectual challenges, Covino said.

Between the two programs, out-of-district placements for which the city receives tuition are sufficient to cover the full cost of the lease, Covino said.

DePolo said his program alone brings $211,000 in out-of-district tuition, exceeding his nearly $165,000 rent bill.

Other expenses, such as staffing and utilities, are paid by the city, Covino said.

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