Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to School: Special Dates in September

As the new school year gets underway,  here are some special dates parents need to take note of in the month of September (from the NYC 2011-2012 School Year Calendar):

September 5, Monday
Labor Day (schools closed)

September 6, Tuesday
Classroom Teachers, Bilingual Teachers in School and Community Relations, Guidance Counselors, Attendance Teachers, Nurses, Therapists, Laboratory Specialists and Technicians, Educational Paraprofessionals (except for School Secretaries, Psychologists and Social Workers) report for work. School Secretaries, Psychologists and Social Workers report for a regular work day.

September 7, Wednesday
Early dismissal for non-District 75 Kindergarten Students only. Partial school time for Prekindergarten public school students.

September 8, Thursday
Early dismissal for non-District 75 Kindergarten Students only. Partial school time for Prekindergarten public school students.

September 9, Friday
First Full day for non-District 75 Kindergarten public school students. Partial school time for Prekindergarten public school students.

September 12, Monday
First Full day for all Prekindergarten public school students.

September 29-30, Thursday and Friday
Rosh Hashanah (schools closed).


Busing Issues for Special Needs Children

The Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) announced that on September 8, the first day of the school year, yellow school buses will take 150,000 children to their schools and back home. For children with special needs who will be transported in a mini-van, parents can expect a letter confirming the bus route and pick-up time by August 29th.

OPT has come under fire in recent years because of budget-cutting measures that affected many of the city’s children. Students from multiple schools now share the same bus, bus routes were consolidated and lengthened, and students with special needs were required to provide medical documentation to qualify for a seat in a mini-van. There have been on-going transportation problems with the 60,000 special needs children who ride the smaller mini-van and have often suffered from inferior service, according to Maggie Moroff, special education policy coordinator at Advocates for Children. “In past years we have heard from too many families about children not picked up at all and missing hours, sometimes days, and sometimes more, of critical school time,” she said. In addition, students with limited travel time requirements have been on the bus for way too long. OPT responded that it promises to do better and added that “we are making a big effort to communicate with parents about how the OPT system works, what they should do when there’s a problem and what documentation, including medical documentation, is needed to match the right bus service to each child.”

For more read "DOE answers parents' busing questions."

Do you have a child that needs to travel on the mini-vans? What problems have you encountered with OPT? What suggestions do you have to ensure that children have a safe and speedy trip to school and back home? We would love to hear your comments.

Photo source

Friday, August 12, 2011

Special Ed Checklist

Here are three things that are crucial for parents to do in the first 30 days of school -- if they're not in place there could be bad consequences later in the semester!    
  1. Your child's Individualized Education Program (IEP) must be in place the first day of school.
  2. Devise a system to monitor your child's progress towards their IEP goals so that you review it at least as often as you receive progress reports or report cards.
  3. Determine whether your child's special education teacher is highly qualified (HQ). All special education teachers must be HQ in special education, which means they must be "certified." In addition, some special education teachers must also be HQ in the subject(s) they teach.

Sinergia's Back to School Open House

back to school
The annual back to school rush starts in earnest this month, so we wanted to focus our August newsletter on helping parents of children with disabilities to get ready. 

This is the time of year when parents are usually running all over town stocking up on backpacks, supplies and other essential items their kids will need for the fall semester. But if your son or daughter has special needs, there are some additional things you need to add to your list. To help parents get prepared, Sinergia will be hosting a Back to School Open House on Thursday, Sept. 1st from 11am to 1pm. We will have program coordinators present that day giving brief introductions about their programs, and parents will be able to: 

  • Meet our Educational Advocates and Educational Attorney
  • Get educational information
  • Have an opportunity to ask questions
  • Learn about Sinergia programs
  • Tour our beautiful office space
  • Enjoy a light lunch   

At the Open House we will unveil the beautiful quilt that was a project of the "We are Parents Too" program. Under the leadership of staff member Maria Torres Bird, parents with developmental disabilities worked on the quilt and sewed individual patches with tributes depicting the love they feel for their children. We will also be raffling two gift certificates, $50.00 each, from Footlocker. You must be present to win. For more information call 212-643-2840 ext. 307.       

Here's a useful web page you might want to keep handy to keep track of all the special dates you'll need to know: 2011-2012 School Year Calendar.                                                           (photo:

Flying Solo: A Success Story

Since 2007 Armando Perez (left) has aspired to travel independently. "He initially was escorted in the Sinergia van when traveling from his home to 134 West 29th Street, our previous location. But then Armando began training to travel on his own and quickly learned how to use the subway," says Day Hab Specialist Robert Maldonado. However, in 2009 Sinergia moved and the route changed, which meant that he had to learn how to arrive at our new location via subway and surface transit. With the help of the Day-Hab Program's persistence and training, along with some inter-agency planning, Armando has demonstrated amazing adaptability. He began traveling back and forth from his Sinergia Day Hab program since Wednesday, July 20th, 2011. For that we salute him, for this great milestone and his skills, perseverance, and patience. He is definitely one of our heroes!