SIKESTON -- Rumors circulating that students from state schools will be mainstreamed into the public school system are simply untrue -- at least for now.
"Last school year the governor asked for a study to be done on how the state provides educational services to students who are severely disabled," said Charlie Taylor, superintendent of State Schools for Severely Handicapped. "It's just to see how we're doing overall."
As part of the commission, a contract was awarded to a company, which is in the process of gathering information about what's happening in state schools, Taylor said. Information is being gathered in two ways: by focus groups and surveys, he said.
"At this point, there's no proposal on the table to do anything. It's simply a study that's being conducted to examine this topic," Taylor said.
The report is expected to be available in early November. Once the report is released it will be shared with all the schools, Taylor said.
"There's not supposed to be any recommendations in the report. It's my understanding it's to be more factual of what others are saying and thinking," Taylor said.
Teresa Neumeyer, principal of New Dawn State School in Sikeston, said the school hasn't received any official news from the state regarding the closure of its schools.
"Right now everything is rumor," Neumeyer said.
New Dawn PTO president Malinda Darter of New Madrid said she also hopes there's no validity to it.
"I've talked to other people (at the state), and our legislator looked into it, and they've said it's a rumor" said Darter, who also serves on the state's Special Education Advisory Board. "But what scares me is it is a rumor, and there has to have been something said to get the rumor started."
New Dawn's PTO will meet for its regular meeting Monday, and Neumeyer thinks the topic will be addressed.
Darter said the issue is something parents need to start thinking about if they haven't already and start making calls to prevent schools from closing.
"We have to be careful and always keep our eyes and ears open," Darter said. Darter has had three children graduate from New Dawn and currently has one child attending the state school.
"It's a real concern. Parents who have child with disabilities have to look in our area, especially, for services. We're not as lucky as some of the people in the larger cities," Darter said, adding having the Kenny Rogers Children's Center nearby is wonderful.
Taylor said he doesn't know where some of the fear of state schools closing stems from although an article published earlier this month in the Springfield News-Leader grabbed the attention of parents who have children with severe disabilities, he said.
"There has been talk (of closing state schools) that goes back 20 or 30 years, and every two or three years the question of should we provide these services in another fashion is raised," Taylor said.
Taylor said to close the state schools would require an act from the Legislature. "It's the legislators who created state schools, and nobody's got the power to do that than them. It would be a bill and discussion would happen, and everybody could track the bill and have their say," Taylor said.
But Taylor said he doesn't know if that will ever come up.
"And I don't know that it won't. I've heard nothing. I know they're doing a study," Taylor said.
State schools first opened in 1957 and today serve about 1,000 students in 36 schools.
"I hope if the governor is considering this that the least he would do is go to the state schools and see the children and talk to parents personally because this decision will have an impact on these children's lives -- and a negative one," Darter said adding she's not saying public schools can't eventually provide the same quality of service as states schools.
"But that's going to take a long time," Darter said. "And while this is going on, it will not help the children at all."