Unexcused absence: Sheepshead Bay special needs school’s abrupt closure confounds parents, students

Unexcused absence: Sheepshead Bay special needs school’s abrupt closure confounds parents, students
Photo by Steve Schnibbe

It was a schoolhouse shock.

Sheepshead Bay special needs school Beachbrook Nursery School abruptly closed on Oct. 16, leaving mentally disabled pupils and their parents in a lurch. The school’s sudden absence especially confused kids — some of whom are blaming themselves for the mysterious closure, one parent said.

“She thinks the school’s closing is her fault,” said Nicole Longo, whose learning-disabled daughter Jordan, 4, attended the school. “She says, ‘Mommy if I’m a good girl, can I go to school today?’ “She’s crying every day — saying, ‘Mommy I miss Joanne,’ her teacher.”

Beachbrook abruptly closed on Oct. 15, and officials only gave parents a single day’s notice in the form of a letter stating that school was out — effective immediately. The school closed due to staffing issues, according to the letter.

But the school didn’t tell staff until the last minute, one parent said.

“The teachers found out when they put the letters in the book bags,” said Angela Rivera, whose autistic daughter Skylar Rivera-Towns, 4, attended Beachbrook since 2014.

Beachbrook was a provate school that received state funding, and it broke the law in failing to alert Albany of the closure or make an adequate plan for students, officials said.

“The school closed without required notification to us and without a plan for the orderly transfer of children in violation of state regulations,” said state education department spokesman Dennis Tompkins.

Rivera was able to take a week off from work to look at other schools, and, after visiting four, she settled on an alternative for Skylar. But Longo is scrambling to find accommodations for her daughter, whose education is slipping away outside of a structured school environment, Longo said.

“Special needs children need structure and a routine,” she said. “They’re used to waking up every morning, going to school, seeing their teacher, and doing stuff in the classroom, and once that’s broken they start regressing. Every day she’s regressing without the services she needs so much.”

The city education department is finding schools for the kids, Tompkins said. No one from Beachbrook returned requests for comment.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.