After a two year fight, Councilman Lew Fidler announced today that IS 278 will, in fact, get the program that the school and community have asked for: the NEST program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. This is a sharp turn around from a series of prior DOE proposals for other uses of available space at the school, each of which was fiercely opposed by the community.
Prior DOE plans included a charter school, a high school and an elementary school, each operating independently in the Intermediate School’s building. In response, the IS 278 community asked the Department to allow the school to run a NEST program. There are no other intermediate school NEST programs in the entirety of southern Brooklyn, forcing children with autism of middle school age to travel long distances to either northern Brooklyn or Queens. Often, the bus trip takes an hour and a half each way.
IS 278 Principal Debbie Garofalo identified the need for this program to come to Southern Brooklyn, and began the process of establishing the program at her school. Once the necessary evaluation work was done, it was determined that ~IEST would be a perfect fit to fill the void, white utilizing the available space most effectively.
“The dire need for this program, combined with the availabie space at the school, resulted in a win-win situation” Councilman Fidler said. “lt’s been a long and, at times, confrontational journey, and I am thrilled that the needs of the community are finaliy being given the credibility that’s desewed. Having worked closely with Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg and with my colleagues in government, I am thrilled that we have prevailed. This is truly a sweet victory. ” Fidler continued.
“Credit goes to our active and involved parents, to our dedicated school administration, to our local Community Education Council, to our local civic associations and community boards each of whom Worked for this together with my office and Assemblyman Alan Maisel, Senator Marty Golden and Congressman Anthony Weiner,” added Fidler. “Just as was the case with PS 114, this proves that DOE can, in fact, listen when you maintain a positive dialogue and you have merit to your case. I cannot express my gratitude strongly enough.
Assemblyman Maisel added, “I am very pleased that the NEST program has been approved for IS 278. A program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is long overdue in our community. Credit for this amazing accomplishment goes to Principal Garofalo and Councilman Fidler for their foresight and diligence in bringing this to fruition. I also must commend the DOE for again proving that they are listening and responding to the needs of children in southern Brooklyn.”
The NEST program will open at IS 278 in September, 2012.