Somerville, MA: In the first week of 2011, City of Somerville Mayor Joseph E. Curtatone and Somerville School District Superintendent Tony Pierantozzi signed a Final Resolution Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), promising to voluntarily come into compliance regarding inaccessible facilities and programs.
Based on 2 Disability Civil Rights complaints submitted in Fall, 2009 and Spring, 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigated the following Somerville School District facilities and programs, and concluded as follows:
1. District Administrative Offices
The District administrative and certain programmatic offices were located at the facility at 181 Washington Street, Somerville, MA. These included Superintendent’s office and staff as well as reception, payroll, human resources, technology, finance and facilities on the 2nd floor; and the Student Services Office, which provided support for curriculum, instruxtion and student assessment support programs on the third floor.
OCR found that neither the administrative services nor the student support programs were accessible to persons with disabilities.
Additionally, OCR found that the District did not have a policy or practice whereby persons with disabilities could request access to these programs at an alternate accessible location.
Therefore, the Somerville School Administrative offices were moved to the Cross Street location in October, 2010, and OCR will need to return to conduct a site review of this new location.
2. Brown Elementary School
The District provides a kindergarten through 6th (K-6) grade program at the Brown. Although this facility has an International Sign for Accessibility (ISA) at one door, OCR found that this entrance is, in fact, not accessible. Furthermore, the third floor, which was added in 1981, has a bathroom that is designated as “accessible.” Since there is no accessible route to gain entry to the third floor, this is inaccurate information as well. OCR found that the Brown School is not accessible to or usable by persons with disabilities.
Since the Somerville School District also offers a K-6 program at the Argenziano School,this site serves as an alternate accessible location for K-6 programs; including: academic classes for grades K-6, library services, art and music classes, computer education, and administrative support.
Somerville must remove all signs and other representations suggesting that the Brown School is accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
3. The Cummings School
Although the School Committee voted to close the Cummings School in 2007, three programs have been located there since the East Somerville Community School fire in December 2007. Of these three programs, only the Grades 5 – 8 program is offered at an alternate accessible location (Argenziano facility).
-the Grades 5 through 8 Unidos program is not accessible to, or usable by, persons with disabilities;
-the District’s Parent Information Center (PIC), which provides such programs as new student registration, bilingual services, intra-district transfer information, and parent support services is not accessible to or usable by persons with disabilities.
Therefore, the District must provide a temporary alternate accessible location for the Unidos 5 – 8 program; and by June 30, 2013, the Unidos 5 – 8 programs must be moved to the newly-renovated ESCS building.; and
the District must install an accessible ramp, intercom and unlocking mechanism, and accessible signage to the PIC entrance and, in addition, provide signage at all inaccessible entrances to this facility to direct users to the accessible entrance for the PIC services.
4. Somerville High School
Although the High School’s common features, such as alarms, water fountains, and internal routes were considered accessible per “existing Facilities” regulations, OCR found that the only bathrooms currently available to students are not, in fact, accessible. Since bathrooms are an essential support feature for students, the District must rectify this problem by June 30, 2011.
In addition, OCR found that:
the 9 – 12 program is not accessible because all programs, when viewed in their entirety, are not accessible to students with disabilities.
Certain classrooms and offices, including
-the Computer Lab,
-the Guidance office, and
-the English language Learners Program (ELL Program) were found to be inaccessible because the District does not provide all elements of these programs in rooms that persons with disabilities can access.
In addition, the only “accessible” designated Entrance, found in the New Wing, is not compliant with architectural accessibility codes and regulations.
Therefore, at this time, the New Wing is also not considered accessible as required by Section 504 and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
As above, the District must mitigate these issues by June 30, 2011.
5. The Edgerly School
The Edgerly School facility holds a number of programs at the Edgerly, including:
Grades 1 – 4, the Unidos Gradess 1- 4, the Next Wave Alternative Junior High School (grades 6 – 8), and the Full Circle Alternative High School (grades 9 – 12).
OCR found that none of the following features are accessible at the Edgerly School:
In addition, OCR identified accessibility concerns in each program’s specific physical space, which further contributes to the inaccessibility of the programs within this School.
Since the Grades 1 -4 program is also provided at the Argenziano School, this programs was found to be available to students with disabilities. However, the Unidos 1-4 and all the other above named programs are not accessible to or usable by persons with disabilities at this time.
Therefore, the District must provide an alternate accessible location for the Unidos 1-4 program at this time; and permanently relocate it to the renovated East Somerville Community School by June 30, 2013; and, the District must take the steps necessary to ensure that the Next Wave and Full Circle programs are fully accessible by June 30, 2013.
Finally, OCR found that the information provided by the District’s website, which only cites that the Brown and Cummings schools “are not fully handicapped accessible” is inaccurate, since these Civil Rights complaint investigations proved that both the Edgerly Schools and the Somerville High School are also not accessible at this time.
In addition the Webpage Accessibility Notices were found to be ineffective, since the principals were not aware of the inaccessible features of their buildings, nor of how to provide accommodations when asked.
In addition, the District does not have adequate, effective or accurate polices regarding accessibility accommodations or relocation of programs.
Therefore, the District must submit redrafts of its policies and procedures to OCR by January 30, 2011; and further, disseminate this information through its website and other appropriate information channels, such as handbooks, webistes, etc.
The monitoring of this Final Agreement will not be closed until Somerville Schools District has fulfilled all terms of the agreement, including reporting requirements, and is found to be in compliance with Section 504 and ADA Title II regulations.
1. this Final Resolution Agreement is only limited to the programs and facilities discussed above; and not the entire Somerville School District.
2. Links for two relevant documents will be added to this post, when they are available in digital format:
the Final Agreement and
for Somerville Public Schools Complaint Nos. 01-10-1012 and 01-10-1100, by the U.S Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.