Parents of severely disabled students in San Francisco have launched a petition to save a school program tailored to helping their children.
The San Francisco school district last week informed parents in a letter that the district will be shutting down the ITALC program at Francis Scott Key Elementary, located in the Outer Sunset District, due to declining enrollment.
The district said the program -- designed for students who are wheelchair bound and unable to move and talk -- will end next school year and the special needs students would have to move.
Families with kids who are affected by the change met with district officials Monday. Parents at the emotional meeting voiced their concerns, including how their children would be able to transition to a new school and learning environment.
Lillian Moncada is one of the parents fighting to keep the program alive.
"That he is able to say mom I'm uncomfortable or read a book for me, it makes a huge difference," Moncada said of her 8-year-old son, Mark.
Her son is paralyzed from the neck down, is in a wheel chair and can't speak. But he is learning to talk with technology thanks to the special program at Francis Scott Key.
""The ITALC program is the only program that serves children like Mark," Moncada said. "Where they are in a wheel chair and no other way to communicate but devices."
District officials said they now plan to meet with each family to decide what is best for their student.
The petition on late Monday had more than 400 signatures. Parents plan to deliver the petition to the San Francisco Board of Education and San Francisco school district officials.
The petition background states:
"The ITALC program is the only program in the city that supports the needs of our children. It gives them the opportunity to communicate through electronic devices, because they are unable to communicate in any other form. The children will no longer have a class that meets their needs. The ITALC is the only form of education that our children can receive. The school district is treating these children as second class citizens by trying to take the rights to go to school and receive the special education that they deserve and need."