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Sharpe Health School Parents Fight Budget Cuts

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C. Melvin Sharpe Health School serves some of the District's most developmentally challenged students.
Armando Trull
C. Melvin Sharpe Health School serves some of the District's most developmentally challenged students.

It's 3:15 p.m. dismissal at the C. Melvin Sharpe Health school in Northwest D.C. Like most school kids, these children seem eager to get on the school buses idling on the driveway. But unlike most D.C. school children, they need a lot of help to do so.

"Some of them have seizures. They have to be lifted, they have to be changed," Cynthia Bland, who works at Sharpe. Even though some of them are in wheelchairs, and they can talk, they can't use their hands or their feet."

Bland's 22-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy and mild retardation, is about to graduate from the school.

"My daughter has been here since '92. They've always left Sharpe behind, always," she says.

Parents of Sharpe students are now angry over proposals to slash $6 million needed to maintain the aging school, says Bland. The plans would mean excessing some of the staff, and perhaps transferring some students into neighborhood schools. Bland predicts some of them will be unable to cope.

"So who will be left behind? Our students. Here we go again," Bland says.

Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser says Sharpe's fragile students could be hurt by staffing cuts.

"We know that those children often times need to be served by one or two adults," Bowser says.

Sharpe parents are promising to mobilize to fight the proposed cuts.

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