NREP group needs funds, volunteers to support kids
Posted: January 16, 2013
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — Five months ago, members of the Parent Teacher Organization at Northwestern Regional Education Program (NREP) were ready to dissolve their group.
Fearful that the group wouldn’t last another year due to a shortage of volunteers, members handed most of their $500 over to the school, leaving $8 in the organization’s bank account.
But the PTO remained, and though the amount in its account has increased to $450, the group is still in need of donations and parent volunteers to give its students the advantages that other schools receive — field trips, books and educational toys.
“There’s so much a PTO can do to brighten a student’s experience,” said treasurer Jenny Myers.
NREP is a Frederick County school that teaches students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, most of whom have intellectual, physical and emotional disabilities.
Eighty teachers and staff serve 90 preschoolers, both with and without disabilities, and 50 students in K-12.
Fifty more children come in for therapy but do not attend school.
Once students have mastered their individualized education plan, they are permitted to attend public school in the division.
There are three members on the PTO’s board: Myers, 34, who serves as treasurer; Danielle McLeod, 24, president; and Melissa Dabas, 38, vice president and secretary. There is also one volunteer.
“Having special needs kids is taxing,” Myers said. “Financially, emotionally — the last thing you want to do is get involved in something else that’s taxing.”
Another reason for the dearth of members is that most students are only around for two to four years until they move to another school, which creates a lot of turnover.
The PTO supplements school funding. Currently, requests made of the organization by the school and its teachers include money to revamp and update classrooms, buy specialized toys for occupational therapists to help students with everyday tasks, buy more books for the library targeted for young adults and supplement the annual Field Day, which costs the school $750 to $1,000.
Last year, the PTO did not have enough money to provide snacks at the event, so the students went without.
“These kids are more typical than not,” Myers said. “They have the same feelings, the same dreams. They’re still worthy of the same things every other kid gets.”
One of the biggest areas of need is providing field trips for the older students, which often involve greater travel distances. Currently, the trips have to be local so that the buses can be back on time for the end of school. The school buses also cannot leave the state.
The PTO is currently tasked with raising $2,000 for two charter buses for trips such as ones to the National Zoo and Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
“For the older kids, they don’t get to do that much,” McLeod said.
Teachers also have to pay for many of their classroom supplies, such as batteries and glue sticks, out-of-pocket.
“Our teachers are amazing,” McLeod said. “They do a lot for themselves.”
The PTO also holds spirit nights to raise money.
On April 20, the group is planning a carnival at the school. The event is open to the public and will include games, concessions and raffle tickets.
Anyone interested in donating to the PTO, or parents who want to volunteer, should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We want kids to get everything other kids get,” Dabas said. “We want parents to get involved. We want them to see the bigger picture of what the school is trying to accomplish.”
— Contact Rebecca Layne at email@example.com