“When his feelings are hurt, that’s when you see him cry — when somebody makes fun of him, or an adult talks bad about him,” Smith said.
The staff at the school has helped them through a lot, she said.
“They would sit with him when I was on a job interview, even if I was going to be late,” Smith said.
“I don’t know why they went the extra mile for us, but they did. ... Ellijah doesn’t see them as a school. He sees them as a family.”
Rachel said change affects children like Ellijah more because of their disabilities. “There are so many things they don’t have control over or can’t control — but a consistent schedule, that’s the one thing they can rely on and look forward to,” she said. “A change in routine, even a new building, is really hard for them.”
The district is expected to make its final decision on the school closures this week.
For Smith, Wingate Oaks is a 10-minute drive. Bright Horizons Center in Pompano Beach, Ellijah’s proposed new school, is an hour’s drive in rush-hour traffic on local roads because the boy becomesagitated on the interstate. Bright Horizons doesn’t have the same continuity of staff in after-school care, Smith said.
“They don’t realize how much [the closure of Wingate Oaks] is going to affect our kids. I’m terrified that he’s going to regress, after he has made so much progress,” she said. “It’s not just a building. It’s the people in the building. It’s the chemistry. That’s what makes Wingate work.”