Special ed student feels the budget cuts

June 10, 2009 5:58:24 PM PDT
There's an elementary school in El Cerrito that will not re-open this coming September and it is going to a little traumatic for one young special education student. He and his closest friends are sad, because the school's closure means they will be separated.

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Remarkable is a fitting word for 10-year-old Charlie Cleberg. He flips the pages of his book with his feet. Because he is hearing impaired, his classmates read into a microphone. His school, Castro Elementary School in El Cerrito pairs special education kids with regular students.

"They are able to perform at high levels when they are given that opportunity and our regular education students benefit from learning side-by-side our special needs students. They learn empathy, they learn understanding," said school Principal Galen Murphy.

His favorite subject is math. He's learned more than reading and math here.

Through the years, this small group of kids has helped Charlie get around.

"I look after him by making sure he is okay. I help him out when he is coloring," said Charlie's classmate Jabbari Wallace.

"I'm not a ham. I'm not a ham I'm a boy," said Charlie Cleberg.

And like most boys and girls Charlie loves playing games. But these fourth graders will be split up and Charlie will have to go to another school.

Castro is closing so that the school district can use this site to build a new middle school. The existing middle school Portola is seismically unstable.

The school where his friends will be transferred is next to a BART line -- again because Charlie is hearing impaired, the noise would interfere with his work.

"It feels really sad because I may not be able to see him again maybe," said Charlie's classmate Amber Amin.

"We've told Charlie this is going to be a big adventure going to a new school and that all new adventures have lot of fun and excitement and all big adventures have hard difficult times," said Charlie's mom Kathy Cleberg.

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