As the first semester draws to a close, talk surrounds potential changes in the Boston College Campus School. The Campus School, which provides education, therapy and medical care to severely disabled students ranging in age from 3-21, is reportedly exploring a collaborative relationship with the Kennedy Day School at the Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton, MA.
The potential for the Campus School’s departure from Chestnut Hill has caused a severe reaction from many students and staff members at BC who dedicate their time to the school, but there are pros and cons to the proposed move.
The Kennedy School, like the Campus School, serves special needs students between the ages of 3 and 21. It currently has 70 enrolled students whereas the Campus School accommodates only 43. Both schools have seen sharp declines in enrollment in recent years as conventional schools offer more comprehensive programs to meet the needs of severely disabled students.
The Kennedy School is only two miles from BC's main campus, and it has recently been renovated with state-of-the-art facilities that could enrich the experiences of Campus School students. With facilities including a vocational skills area, therapy pool, supplemental health room, sensory motor room and gymnasium, the Kennedy School can provide a high standard of care and education for students.
A partnership between the Campus School and the Kennedy School could improve the quality of education and therapy that Campus School students need, but opponents to the move argue that it could also change the bonds between BC volunteers and the Campus School students they care about.
Those opposed to the merger cite the presence of the Campus School at BC as one of the hallmarks of its success.
“One of the greatest elements of being located at the heart of our campus is the constant opportunity to volunteer and have an affective presence in the lives of these amazing students,” says Chris Marino, A&S ’14, co-president of the Campus School Volunteers of Boston College. "None of our volunteers can imagine Boston College without having the Campus School right here.”
The physical location of the Campus School at BC allows volunteers to go above and beyond their service requirements, often visiting their students just to say hello. Even a two-mile move may negatively impact the dynamic between students and BC volunteers.
Officials at the Campus School maintain that little more than the location may change. The Campus School Volunteers Marathon Team, which runs the Boston Marathon in support of the Campus School each year, will continue its work, according to BC's Director of Public Affairs Jack Dunn. The Marathon Team is a long-standing tradition of the Campus School and plays an integral part even outside of raising money for the school. The team also shows the students how well-loved and supported they are by Campus School Volunteers and the BC community.
Meagan McCarthy, A&S ’14, ran the marathon last year in support of Devon, a Campus School student. She shared her concern for the future of the students and volunteers if the school is to move off campus.
“I'm afraid that BC's bond with the school will suffer. When I walk around Campion and see the Campus School kids, I love knowing that I contributed to their education, even in a small way. I hope that future BC students can run the marathon, have pasta dinners and see the impact that they're making on these children,” she said. Removing the Campus School from campus has the potential to change the bonds that so many BC volunteers like Meagan have created with the school and its students.
Campus School Director Don Ricciato has stated that discussions about moving the school off campus are in the early stages, saying that the only factor in his mind is what is best for Campus School students. “I care deeply for our students and have been committed to ensuring the best possible care for them for the past 43 years, so I believe that we should explore these options for the benefits they may hold for our students,” he says.
Central to the discussion is providing the best situation for the students. The Campus School is certainly an inspirational and unique part of BC. Rachel Fagut, CSOM '14 and another member of the marathon team puts it this way: “Because of the Campus School, I was inspired to run the marathon for something meaningful.”
Everyone involved is aware of how meaningful the Campus School is to BC and how meaningful BC is to the Campus School students. The ultimate decision, however, will reflect the best interests of the 43 Campus School students.