The spring of 2014 marked both a distressed time for the Campus School of Boston College—the University’s campus-based, non-profit special needs school for children between the ages of 3 and 21—and an unprecedented strain on the relationship between the University and Campus School parents.
In light of a consistent enrollment decrease over the past seven years coupled with the facilities becoming outmatched by other area special needs programs, University administrators, along with Campus School Director Don Ricciato, entered into a mutual agreement to evaluate updated, expanded, and potentially more suitable learning environments for the continuation of the school.
What was proposed by the University as a search for an improved quality of services for Campus School students, however, was perceived by most parents and many BC students as an affront to the identity of the Campus School and an abandonment of the collegial atmosphere that has long defined the program.
Over the course of several months, parents and administrators clashed over the future location of the school, with parents rallying for its stay at Campion Hall and administrators continuing to consider seriously its relocation to Kennedy Day School (KDS)—a renovated, 80-student special needs program located within the Brighton-based Franciscan Hospital for Children.
Although the proposed relocation of the school included a full transplant of staff, student volunteers, and teachers, parents largely feared that uprooting the nearly 40-year-old Campus School would not only strip the University of a necessary manifestation of BC’s mission, but also detract from the overall student experience by placing the program within a medical facility instead of a collegiate one.
Following a sustainability plan offered by Campus School parents to then-Interim Provost Joseph Quinn and then-Vice President of Human Resources Leo Sullivan last February, an agreement was finally reached to keep the Campus School on BC grounds, and thus end the consideration of a merged program with KDS.
Despite the uncertainty—and occasional acrimony—surrounding the evaluation, the agreement signified a fruitful collaboration between the Campus School and University administrators, and it reflects an encouraging willingness on BC’s part to identify the best possible outcome for both the Campus School and the BC community.
Not only has the University agreed to allow the Campus School to stay, but it has also seeded an impressive list of administrators onto the strategic planning committee for the long-term growth and development of the Campus School.
Administrative members from departments spanning University Advancement to the Budget Office have agreed to participate in marketing and financing efforts for the Campus School and evidence BC’s commitment to the strengthening of the school’s enrollment throughout the coming years.
Campus School parents and staff should also be commended for their enduring effort to revise the school’s internal operations, and for integrating even more of the BC community into the school by implementing new initiatives such as a pilot intern program for CSOM students and a first-ever donations appeal to the Campus School community scheduled for this November.
Other collaborative improvements, including a promotional video produced by BC’s Office of News and Public Affairs, will likely not only enhance the appeal of the Campus School to both volunteers and families of special needs children, but also strengthen the connection of the University with the daily operations of the school, and therefore better comprehend its challenges and needs.
If the Campus School is to enact fully its strategic plan, such a connection is vital to fulfilling that goal, which would benefit from the University’s financial and operational resources. While the forefront of the issue was, and must remain, the wellbeing of Campus School students and a continual commitment to the betterment of their education, the renewed University-Campus School partnership also serves as a positive model for how administrative decisions can be reached.
Featured Image by Emily Sadeghian / Heights Editor