Education program for students with special needs to open in Bangor

Posted July 05, 2014, at 11:07 a.m.
Bangor School Department Superintendent Betsy Webb
Gabor Degre | BDN
Bangor School Department Superintendent Betsy Webb Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — An education program for students with severe emotional and behavioral difficulties is on schedule to open in Bangor for the fall semester, according to Bangor School Department Superintendent Betsy Webb.

A renovation of the city-owned building at 208 Maine Ave. that once housed the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce and Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau is underway, according to Webb.

She added that teachers, educational technicians and a social worker have been hired. They will be trained for two weeks in August before the start of the school year.

The program, called the Southern Penobscot Regional Program, has been housed in various locations in Old Town since it was created in 1979. Until now, it was operated by Regional School Unit 34, which serves the communities of Old Town, Alton and Bradley.

It is funded by and admits students from many different school districts in the Bangor area.

This past spring, each of the participating school districts voted on whether to join a new interlocal agreement that would relocate the program to Bangor.

Webb said all but two school districts voted to join the new agreement and will be participating in the new program.

The school districts based in Old Town and Newport did not join, according to Webb.

RSU 34 Superintendent David Walker confirmed that his school board voted not to join the new agreement, though he said he could not comment on actions that they took.

Requests for comment from the school board chair, James Dill, were not returned.

The Southern Penobscot Regional Program accepts students in grades K-12 who need services that cannot be provided in a traditional school and prepares them to return to their community school, if possible.

“School systems find that sometimes it’s difficult to provide those services in their schools,” Webb said. “We do this collaboratively to provide the best program at a more reasonable cost.”

The Bangor School Department is preparing to serve 40 students at the new facility in the fall.

The program is part of an umbrella organization called the Southern Penobscot Regional Program for Children with Exceptionalities, which also includes a program for students with hearing impairments and a program for students with multiple disabilities.

For the first time since the organization was created in 1978, all the programs will be administered by the Bangor School Department, according to Murray Shulman, the organization’s executive director.

“The facility in Bangor is recognized as being an improvement for that population,” Shulman said.

“The Old Town community served that population really well for a number of years,” he added.

Webb said Wednesday that “nearly everyone we’ve hired was from the Old Town program.”

The school districts based in Bangor, Brewer, Glenburn, Greenbush, Hermon, Indian Island, Milford, Veazie, Hampden, Orono, Corinth, Carmel, Dedham and Holden will participate in the program, according to Webb.

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