Melina Chynoweth, of the Chippewa Valley Schools special education parent group, addressed the Board of Education June 3. She said that since August, the group has been requesting consideration for a community-based special education program in the district.

Melina Chynoweth, of the Chippewa Valley Schools special education parent group, addressed the Board of Education June 3. She said that since August, the group has been requesting consideration for a community-based special education program in the district.

Photo by Alex Szwarc


CVS parent proposes further program for special needs students

By: Alex Szwarc | C&G Newspapers | Published June 12, 2019

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP/CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Parents of children with special needs are advocating for an expansion of programs.

One member of the Chippewa Valley Schools special education parent group addressed the Board of Education at the June 3 meeting.

Melina Chynoweth spoke on behalf of continual learning plan, or CLP, students and parents, past and present. She said that since August, the group has been requesting consideration for a community-based program in the district.

“It has not been seriously considered and we’ve had very little to no response,” she said. “The program would be in-district and not only provide work experience and education, but also provide independent learning skills and the opportunity for support services, including a community organization to enrich these necessary skills by collaborating and uniting to address individual student needs.”   

She proposes the district create a formal committee including stakeholders to discuss the possibility of a community-based post-secondary program that would partner with local businesses.

Chippewa Valley Schools Superintendent Ron Roberts after the meeting said he wasn’t prepared to discuss the matter and that district officials need to explore and look at what Chynoweth brought up and talk to her.

“Prior to graduation, every parent wonders what’s best for their child,” she said. “The world has endless possibilities waiting for them. Parents of children with disabilities also wonder this, knowing they don’t have a world of endless opportunities.”

She shared a story of a time when she was at a gas station and noticed a man who was acting odd. The gentleman proceeded to the attendant, unzipped his coat and took out two empty pop cans and handed it to him. In turn, he was given twenty cents.

“My heart sank at that moment, because I realized I was standing in fear alongside a disabled adult,” Chynoweth said. “He was just trying to get by in life. What fears must he have had to keep his items so close to his body?”

She cited the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 that children with disabilities should be enabled to develop an awareness of the environment in which they live, and to learn the skills necessary to move effectively and safely from place to place.

“Conversations have been taking place for the past nine months among parents of CLP children about what’s best for these students, and with research, we believe that a community-based program as a district would be healthiest for their success,” she said.

She believes awareness and education of a community in which disabled children and adults live is critical to lifelong learning, happiness and a future.

“Community-based programs, such as the one in Utica Community Schools, are successful, because as research shows, most disabled students are lifelong residents of the community in which they are raised,” Chynoweth said.

She noted that less than 30% of Chippewa’s eligible special education students are attending school after the age of 18.

“Districts have a legal, moral and community obligation to educate students with developmental disabilities until 26,” Chynoweth said. ”The community obligation needs to be strengthened.”

The board’s next meeting is June 17.

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