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St. Vincent's shutting down local special-ed school

Published 11:10 am, Tuesday, April 23, 2013
  • The special-education school Seton Academy at 47 Long Lots Road will close at the end of the current school year. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News contributed
    The special-education school Seton Academy at 47 Long Lots Road will close at the end of the current school year. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Seton Academy, a private school for special-education students on Long Lots Road, will close at the end of the current academic year, a decision its parent organization St. Vincent's Health Services attributed to declining enrollment and proposed state budget cuts.

"Unfortunately, enrollment has not been sufficient to have a financially sustainable model, and it has recently become apparent that we needed to make the difficult decision to close the school," St. Vincent's said in a statement Monday.

Seton Academy will close at the end of June. It was established in 1966 under the original name of Hall-Brooke School.

Seton's principal, Armand Fabbri, has been working with parents and their home school districts to ensure that students will be placed in an "appropriate school setting" in September, according to the statement.

St. Vincent's special-education school in Trumbull and its other services for children and teenagers will not close, the statement added.

Seton comprises part of St. Vincent's' behavioral-health services campus at 47 Long Lots Road. It serves students age 10 to 20 who have learning, emotional and/or behavioral problems. The school provides "individually tailored academic and therapeutic support," according to its website. It currently has an enrollment of 19 students.

Local school districts contract with Seton Academy to pay for educational costs, which include social-work services, for students placed at the school.

Several parents and students told the Westport News they are displeased about Seton's closing.

"I'm really upset that the hospital has chosen to close the school," said Kristen Riolo, a Darien resident, whose son, Matthew Vitti, is a junior. "I've been very satisfied with Seton, they've been amazing. It's a really necessary school. It helps so many kids with disabilities."

Matthew Vitti has attended Seton since eighth grade. He will attend Darien High School in the fall, but acknowledged that he is "pretty nervous" about that transition.

"I'm pretty sad," he said. "It was actually quite a bit to take in. It was so sudden."

He praised Seton's students and staff.

"Making friends there is great," he said. "Because it's small you pretty much get to know everyone. And all the staff members there are friendly and know what they're doing."

Wilton resident Dorte Hansen said she was also unhappy about Seton's demise. Her son, sophomore Daniel Cassell, transferred to Seton this year from Wilton High School.

"It's very disturbing they're going to do this," she said. "You have 20 kids there who have the chance to turn their life around. It's very precarious. There's no other school in Connecticut that's even close to what these guys do."

Hansen said her son is thriving at Seton, but she is concerned about how he would cope with a return in the fall to Wilton High.

"I don't think he's ready to go back to mainstream," she added. "It's very worrying. There's still the anxiety of that environment, if you're not ready. He definitely needs a nurturing environment."

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott