Worcester schools propose reduced services for special needs student still awaiting compliance

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As Worcester Public Schools continues to grapple with an inability to fulfill state-mandated services agreed upon a year ago by its own officials and the mother of a 15-year-old special needs student, the latest proposed solution from the school department involves reducing its obligation by 40 percent.

Now Kelly Rawson, mom to Eugene “Gino” Berthiaume — born with a rare virus that has limited his development and caused deafness, among other ailments — says she believes the schools’ decisions could be financially motivated.

“It’s a less expensive alternative,” said Rawson of the school’s therapy-based option opposed to her preferred residential program. “Although they would likely save some money by no longer having to pay for Gino’s transportation every day [Gino would be staying four nights and five days at the Framingham school he attends daily], it would be cheaper [for the district] to drive him back and forth every day and add the [Applied Behavior Analysis] therapist than it would be to pay for Gino to attend the dorm program.”

Gino Berthiaume

Courtesy Kelly Rawson

Gino Berthiaume

Rawson met Friday, Jan. 8, with WPS Special Education IEP Evaluation Team chairperson Kelly O’Donnell, members of the special education department and representatives from the Framingham school where Gino is bused, by WPS through School Choice, each day.

Rawson said O’Donnell reiterated the school department position that a residential program was not a fit for Gino and that he had made enough strides in the schools’ assessment that he would require only three days of 1 ½-hour sessions with an ABA therapist, instead of the five days posed last January in an Individualized Education Program [IEP] that expires Jan. 30 and was never fulfilled.

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