Just a little over a week until the new school year starts for my kiddos. This year we will be starting not only a fresh year, but a new school as well.
For those of you who follow me on twitter, you know that I recently moved. From the neighborhood where my car was stolen- twice- to a neighborhood where I'm sure my car would only have been taken if I had actually paid someone to haul it off. It's nice to sleep at night without worrying about whether I will have a car in the morning. (My daughter actually asked me once: "Mom, when they steal this car can we get a red one?" You know it's time to move on when your car being stolen is seen as a given rather than a chance.)
I digress. New home. New school. The girls finished out their year in the previous school, so that they could start fresh with the incoming class. And so I could start to work with the school in advance, make sure they were ready for us.
Step one was to stop in and introduce myself to the school nurse. Ask a few friendly questions and get a feeling for the policy and her role in allergy management, as well as her approach to it. I was truly not prepared for the interaction that took place. I left feeling discouraged that the nurse was not quite hostile toward food allergies, but was certainly not welcoming or flexible. No, there are not peanut free classrooms. No, children can not invite a friend to join them at the peanut free table. Yes, if a child brings a peanut based treat to share during class it will be enjoyed. There's more, but those were the highlights. The nurse however, is only there one day a week. This is both horrifying (I'm used to not one, but three nurses on staff at all times!) and wonderful (only one day of her influence to overcome). The next step for me was to meet with the principal.
What a meeting. She was kind, and receptive, and made all the right assurances. Certainly we could have a peanut free classroom, certainly friends could be invited to the peanut free lunch table. Hmmm. While I was relieved that she had the right answers, it was also problematic. Did this mean the principal was out of touch with how allergy management actually happened at our new school, or did this mean the nurse was uncooperative and was putting up unnecessary roadblocks? I asked the principal to chat with the nurse in order to clarify the message and make sure we were all on the same page. I then asked to have a meeting with the teachers so that they would be able to prepare over the summer for a very allergic student joining their classroom.
That was the last I heard. No follow up, no meeting.
I consulted with the staff at the awesome school we have been attending, and we got a 504 in place stating all of the precautions that they had always taken willingly and proactively. (Really, I am so sad to leave such an amazing school.) Because it looks like my daughter will need a 504 to make sure the staff of the new school are all on the same page in regards to my daughter's safely. I want no mixed messages or grey areas here.
I then sent an email to request a 504 meeting with the new staff. Let's get the ball rolling so this plan is in place and understood before the new year begins. I remember being a teacher, and I know I would have appreciated having an entire summer to learn and prepare for such a change in the classroom. I also know that once the request is received in writing they have only 30 days to respond.
The response? We'd be happy to meet after the summer is over, when the teachers return to school. *sigh* So, yes. The meeting to establish a 504 plan for my daughter is scheduled to be THE DAY BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS. That should be helpful for the teachers. At least it will be fresh in their minds.
It has made me a nervous wreck. All summer long I have been trying to build the kids up for a great experience at an awesome new school, but I wonder if they can tell it's not heartfelt. An awesome school would not put student safety off until the last minute. Eeek. I'm feeling that I am likely to be THAT mom. The one that causes the staff to roll their eyes and grumble, "Here comes Mrs. Mentor again. What does she want this time?"
Hopefully I am awed and amazed by the meeting next week, and the level of awareness and receptiveness the teachers have. Hopefully I walk away feeling relieved and a bit embarrassed to have been so stressed.
Wish me luck.