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Washington special needs class headed to Broadwater, closure plans announced

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Posted at 1:09 AM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-25 11:37:30-05

BILLINGS - Families learned about their children’s education future with the closure of Washington Elementary School.

The School District 2 administration met with parents during a meeting that lasted about an hour on Wednesday night.

Parents had a chance to find out where their children will go to school next year, heard about the bus routes, and met the principals from Broadwater, Miles Avenue, and Newman.

After weeks of uncertainty, this was a night for answers.

For some gathered at Washington Elementary School on Wednesday night, the big question was what will happen to children enrolled in special education when their neighborhood school is closed?

"I'm kind of curious as to where that program is going to land in one of the other schools,” said Michelle Caras, a mother whose son is in the special needs class. “And be sure that the special needs children are still top priority in this change that can be a little bit disruptive to them."

"I want to make sure he's still getting the proper education that he should be getting to develop in life," said Allen Gwilliams, a father with a son in the special needs class.

Superintendent Erwin Garcia answered that question and others.

He said all the Washington special education students, teachers, and teachers’ aides will stay together and make the move to nearby Broadwater Elementary.

"We're talking about the most vulnerable students,” Garcia said. “We want to make sure that the teachers that currently serve the students can actually travel with those students to the new school. So we minimize the mobility, the change, as much as we can of course."

On Monday, the Billings school board voted, 6-1, to close Washington, and disperse about 130 students to the other elementary schools.

While more than 200 currently attending Washington, Garcia said that 130 is the remaining students after taking into consideration the special needs student solution and that 5th graders will move onto middle school.

The plan is to turn the closed school into the Washington Innovation Center.

The meeting started with showing the new school boundaries and the possible bus routes.

Families then had a chance to meet the principals.

"We have a great group of leaders that are opening their arms who receive our kids,” Garcia said about the principals. “So that's exciting. It was a great meeting."

While many have voiced frustrations and concerns over the closure of Washington, many gathered here saying they're looking to the future for their kids.

"Hopefully they can still thrive wherever they land going forward,” Caras said."

"That's what I kind of want for him is to be able to grow and learn," Gwilliams said.