A mother in New Britain said it's only a matter of time before something happens to her special needs daughter after budget cuts left her without care and attention that she needs in school.
Omayra Delgado's youngest daughter, Sandhee Tiwari, 7, is a second-grade student at Gaffney Elementary School in New Britain.
Tiwari needs around-the-clock care, and until this new school year she has always had one paraprofessional assigned to only her at all times.
But last June, in a budget-saving effort, the school board eliminated 75 paraprofessional positions district-wide through layoffs, attrition and terminations.
Delgado said now only one paraprofessional works with several students, and it's a setup she feels isn't safe and isn't working.
"I witnessed one of these paraprofessionals," she said. "They had a child in a wheelchair, a child in one hand, one child in another hand and she was pushing the wheelchair with her torso. Now how is that safe?"
On the first day of school, Delgado and Tiwari arrived at school, and with the changes, she got scared.
Instead of Tiwari's paraprofessional, she met her teacher.
"She basically said, 'I have her for the day in the morning, and I'm going to hold on to her, don't worry. She'll be fine,'" Delgado said. "She kept talking, let go of my child and [Tiwari] took off. She just wandered off and nobody ever noticed. She was by the buses. If those buses were moving, my child would have been splattered."
Delgado said she was too scared to send her daughter back and went straight to the district office where she was told someone would contact her. She said that when she finally heard back from a speech therapist, they couldn't promise one-on-one attention.
"It's not that children are getting less services, we're looking at who provides those services," School Board President Sharon Beloin-Saavedra said.
Last June she said the idea was to shift to certified teaching and get groups working together. Paraprofessionals work with speech and occupational therapists to help special needs kids.
"It comes down to, does the child need one-on-one paraprofessionals with them all the time, or just part of the day," Beloin-Saavedra said. "To be independent and to develop and nurture them as much as possible."
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