Parents protest changes to Roosevelt Academy ESE

- About a dozen concerned parents chanted "Keep Roosevelt Special," as they protested in front of Roosevelt Academy Tuesday.

For the last 35 years, Roosevelt Academy has taught ESE kids with learning issues. The Florida Department of Education and the Polk School District are now discussing possible changes, something parents are railing against.

"When it comes to these kids, Roosevelt is what they need," said Sarah Frederick,

Education officials are mulling over a number of possible changes meant to help kids achieve the state’s new tougher graduation requirements.

For years, ESE kids were issued a special certificate when they graduated high school. The state just raised the bar. Now it requires them to earn a high school diploma, which will mean they will have to reach a higher standard academically.

To do that, local officials are talking about a number of strategies. The most controversial is getting rid of the 6th grade, and sending the kids to a so-called regular school. It would also bring kids in from regular schools to Roosevelt.

Parents and others say, if that happens, the ESE students would be targets.

"They’re going to get bullied, bullied badly," Mary Ann Gladowski, a retired ESE teacher told FOX 13.

At a meeting after the protest, district officials tried to calm the parents' fears.

"We are looking at other strategies first," said Polk School Board member Lynn Wilson. "We want to exhaust every other possible strategy before we make that decision."

Wilson says the district intends to keep the 6th grade at Roosevelt for at least another two years. In the meantime, it is considering giving ESE students tutoring, more times on tests over even adding another year to their instruction.

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