On Our Way Learning Center is a special education preschool that has been servicing the diverse children of the Rockaways for over 20 years. They have close to 150 students age 2-5 each year with varying levels of abilities and have helped so many children who have walked through their doors. Their staff and student body are extremely diverse and represent the various groups from Breezy Point, Belle Harbor, Rockaway Park, Arverne, Bayswater, Far Rockaway and the surrounding areas. They also have an extensive evaluation site, and evaluate between 500-600 children a year, and their Early Intervention service coordinators oversee about 200 children’s cases at any given time. They also employ around 85 people from within the local community- this includes, teachers, classroom assistants, therapists, service coordinators, administration, and clerical staff. The program has a very low turnover rate, as people are happy working here and put their heart and soul into each child, with most teachers and therapists working there at least 15+ years. They have an extremely good name in the area with parents, children and staff all benefiting from being part of the On Our Way family. They are the ONLY program of this kind in the entire Rockaway peninsula.
The Issue at hand
Unfortunately, due to financial strains, On Our Way announced that they are closing their doors in June 2018. This leaves hundreds of children and tens of staff members without a place for the coming school year. Due to the pressing regional need, NY state has allowed for the possibility of another school taking over the current building and staff, which is great news for all families on Rockaway Peninsula! Several schools have expressed interest in taking over and have seen the program and some have already submitted applications to New York State. Which is wonderful news….BUT. The state is taking it’s time to give an answer and in the meanwhile, it’s getting later and later in the year and students and parents are being forced to consider alternatives, including being bussed to various places in Queens over an hour a way.
What can we do?
It is imperative for our state representatives to understand the need for a program like On Our Way to remain in the Rockaways. Past, current and future parents, concerned community members and all who hope to see the future of a special ed school in the Rockaways are urged to reach out to the state representatives below.
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato
9516 Rockaway Beach Boulevard
Rockaway Beach, NY 11693
Councilman Donovan Richards
1931 Mott Ave
Far Rockaway, NY 11691
Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr.
159-53 102nd Street
Howard Beach , NY 11414
This is an example of what you can say:
“Hi, my name is _____, and as a local parent and/or community member, I am very concerned about losing a special ed preschool in the Rockaway area. I understand that there is a way for a new school to be approved by the state so that we can still service our special ed preschool children. Please let the NYS Education Department know that this is a priority for our neighborhood!”
PLEASE STAY TUNED FOR PUBLIC RALLY IN THE COMING DAYS!!
** This is what counts. Get involved. Together, we can ensure the future of a Special Education preschool in the Rockaway area.