video: school closing

Before attending Wingate Oaks Center two years ago, Ellijah Smith ("Papa"), 13, wasn't potty- trained, couldn't communicate and was rarely social. Today Ellijah is a different boy. He goes to the bathroom on his own, communicates desires and emotions via his iPad and interacts with other children and adults.

Wingate Oaks provides a special-needs learning center in Broward Schools for special-needs children, like Ellijah, who has autism. On Feb. 11, 2013, Ellijah's mother Mellissa Smith heard that the Broward School Board was planning on closing Wingate Oaks due to low enrollment. As a result, Ellijah would be re-located to Bright Horizons Center, which is 13 miles away from Wingate Oaks.

Smith and other parents have, since, organized an effort to appeal the closure of Wingate Oaks. In a recent Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) report, Wingate Oaks scored 100%. Bright Horizons scored 82% on its AYP Report and failed to meet the standards for adequate progress. Both schools are under-enrolled. Wingate has 65% enrollment and Bright Horizons has 59%. Parents of Wingate Oaks students want to know why the school board is planning to close their school.

UPDATE: On Thursday, March 22, 2013 Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told parents and staff at Fort Lauderdale’s Wingate Oaks Center that the school will continue to serve students from kindergarten to 12th grade, though it will not enroll new students. Thus, the issue of low enrollment will worsen as students graduate out of the school and no new students are allowed to enroll. Kathrine Francis, executive director of Broward's Exceptional Student Education department, told parents and staff that the school will have to be re-evaluated on a yearly basis.

Mellissa Smith says she'll take what she can get. She's looking at the matter positively and is hoping to prove just how good the school is and perhaps reverse the decision to stop new enrollment.