After months of shared deliberation between the Boston College Campus School, the parents of Campus School students, and the BC administration, the University has announced plans to keep the Campus School on BC’s campus.
In November 2013, Campus School Director Don Ricciato signed a letter of intent to explore a potential affiliation with the Franciscan Children’s Hospital’s Kennedy Day School (KDS) in Brighton, which oversees approximately 70 students with multiple disabilities from ages 3 to 21. If the affiliation had gone through, it would have meant the Campus School relocating about two miles off campus.
After holding several conversations with parents of Campus School children throughout the semester, University officials have decided to work with parent leaders to create a long-term strategic plan that would avoid relocation and ensure the continuation of services for special needs students at BC.
The decision was reached after University President William P. Leahy, S.J. asked Ricciato, Interim Provost Joseph Quinn, and Vice President for Human Resources Leo Sullivan to organize monthly meetings with Campus School parents, during which sustainability plans could be discussed. Through conversations with volunteers, parents, and others who advocated for the retention of the Campus School’s current location, and consideration of their proposed strategic plan, the administration agreed to work with parents, with the intent of keeping the school on BC grounds.
“The decision to collaborate came about as the organic outcome of the process we undertook,” said Kristen Morin, co-president of the Parent Advisory Committee and BC ’86, in an email. “It began with our receipt of the notification of a potential merger. We knew that Boston College benefits from our children being on campus and our children benefit from being a beloved part of the University. We had always known that, but the outpouring of support we received strengthened our resolve to work on a solution together with Boston College.”
Quinn also noted the benefits of the mutually agreed upon approach to restoring the sustainability of the Campus School. “We are very pleased to have reached this agreement,” he said in a statement to the Office of News and Public Affairs. “These discussions have been very helpful as they have given Campus School parents a better understanding of the issues facing the school, while giving Boston College a greater appreciation of their commitment to preserving and strengthening the program.
“The Campus School parents asked for an opportunity to keep the campus school at BC, increase enrollment and balance the school’s budget, and we have agreed to give them this opportunity,” Quinn said. “We are all committed to making this plan work.”
Over recent years, the Campus School has seen declining enrollment, dropping from 49 students in 2007 to 38 in 2014. Parents and administrators are seeking to raise this number in order to generate financial sustainability for the school.
To increase enrollment, the strategic plan proposes to use improved marketing strategies and will detail ways of recruiting area families with special needs children to the Campus School with the goal of having additional tuition dollars cover the deficit that the Campus School currently runs.
“The Campus School parents asked for an opportunity to submit a Strategic Plan that will assess the school’s strengths and weaknesses, provide strategies to increase enrollment, and fund capital improvements through fundraising efforts,” said University Spokesman Jack Dunn in an email. “BC administrators have agreed to review the plan and its feasibility for strengthening and sustaining the Campus School.”
“We plan to take all of the reasons we love our school and translate them into a sustainable program on behalf of the Campus School,” Morin said in a statement to the Office of News and Public Affairs.
Another component of the plan will include fundraising methods aimed toward funding improved equipment, namely SMART Boards and lifts, for students and volunteers. Although the Campus School’s current location in Campion Hall lacks both the size and technological advantages of KDS, parents and administrators believe a college setting and plans to enhance the school’s facilities will ultimately provide special needs students a better learning environment.
According to Dunn, though KDS remains under capacity, the school has been cooperative throughout the process and is understanding of the decision.
“The leadership of the Kennedy Day School understands that we want to give parents an opportunity to help the Campus School to achieve sustainability here on the BC campus,” he said.
Chris Marino, co-president of the Campus School Volunteers of BC and A&S ’14, said that the structure of the plan-regarding administrative oversight and marketing efforts-will provide a basis for the Campus School to grow.
“That’s definitely one of the main goals of this collaboration we’re having with Boston College, and they’ve been very helpful so far in allowing us the time to work on that-in trying to get the referrals we need so [the Campus School] is not under-populated,” Marino said on increasing enrollment.
Morin said the group constructing the plan consists of not only Campus School parents, but also staff and outside supporters who will work directly to achieve desired results.
“While this is a very sensitive issue and stirs lots of emotions we also know there is a business model behind all successful institutions,” Morin said in an email. “We did not want to make our case on emotion alone as that would prove to be a short term solution. Rather our committee developed the outline of a new direction based on facts and potential outcomes to create a sustainable program.
“In the end, administration did not only listen but truly heard what so many of our stakeholders were saying,” she said.