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Chappaqua Schools Educate Community on Inclusion

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – A panel of special education experts led a discussion at Seven Bridges Middle School on Wednesday night for what the school district called its first step toward educating the community on inclusion in its schools.

Much of the discussion centered around the district’s priority for Individual Education Program (IEP) students to be placed among their peers in inclusion classes.

“I think it gives students the chance to see that with education, one size does not fit all,” said Ellen Moskowitz, a special education teacher at Roaring Brook Elementary School.

Addressing concerns that having IEP students in classes may water down the curriculum, the panel said that differentiation is the key, which is no different than a non-inclusion class. Assistant Superintendent Eric Byrne argued that a homogeneous class does not exist and students will always be learning and reading at different levels.

Inclusion classes, which generally have around 25 students, typically have no more than five IEP students. Heidi McCarthy, the district’s director of special education, said over-grouping has never been an issue.

To begin the presentation, a video titled, “A District That Values Inclusion”, showed high school and middle school students speaking about the benefits of taking classes with IEP students.

“I just think it’s so powerful to hear these students speak to how significant it is in their lives to be able to help someone,” said Tricia Greco, a special education teacher. “They recognize that there are differences about themselves and it prepares them for the real world and being out there where people do have to accept people.”

Byrne said even before he came to Chappaqua eight or nine years ago, he admired the priority the district placed on inclusion. He said while other districts may attempt inclusion, Chappaqua has a “commitment to collaboration.”

“In a lot of places you can walk in and you can see it’s an attempt at inclusion, but you don’t get that sense of community,” said Byrne. “What you see here is the focus on the collaboration and the focus on community really leads to a genuine inclusive environment.”

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