The Julia Richman Complex

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The following statement, written by the P226M Inclusion Coordinator, describes the serious impact the proposed relocation would have on children in P226 - the school for children with autism located in the Julia Richman Education Complex.

The Julia Richman Education Complex (JREC) is home to a unit of 60 middle and high school-aged students from P226M, a special education public school program serving students with autism. P226 prides itself on providing students with a rigorous academic curriculum paired with essential functional vocational experiences to ensure a successful transition into their adult lives. Through this well-rounded curriculum, students are able to generalize their classroom-based knowledge to new environments, ensuring their ability to serve as highly productive members of their community. Over the nine years P226 has made JREC their home, a variety of close community-based ties have been established and nurtured within the blocks surrounding the school, making generalization of skills a natural part of the learning process.

P226 students regularly visit the New York City Public Library conveniently located across the street from the school, where they learn to generalize their classroom-based skills in a research-oriented atmosphere through work experiences such as shelving books and organizing materials. Students gain exposure to office work through the provision of weekly clerical duties at Sokol Hall, a cultural community-based organization. They participate in vocational training through volunteer work at the Carter Burden Senior Center and Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, building essential social competencies and food service skills working with senior citizens. The food service industry is also explored by students through cafeteria work at nearby Marymount College. Additionally, students develop an appreciation of their physical environment through the acquisition of landscaping and gardening skills at a job site at Carl Schurz Park. These community-based experiences greatly increase the prospects of the students of P226 holding supported or independent jobs in their future, as they develop their ability to follow directions, interact with others, and gain recognition as contributing community members.

The re-location of the Julia Richman Education Complex would deprive these students of the ability to develop fundamental skills on the road to adulthood, as few neighborhoods offer as many easy-access worksites as Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Accessing an appropriate vocational placement for one individual with autism is a challenge; building the relationships to provide over 50 students with meaningful work experiences takes years. The close proximity of these facilities is essential to the continuity of the students’ educational programming during their middle school – high school years. Because they are able to walk to each location, the vocational component of their studies does not interfere with classroom-based instructional time. Work sites involving extensive bus or subway travel can be problematic due to the disproportional time students spend commuting, rather than learning. Removing students from their current proximity to a wealth of community-based instructional resources would significantly impede their social, academic, and vocational progress, infringing upon their prospects for a successful future.

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