UC Regents' Panel Rejects Bid to Save Fernald School

Times Staff Writer

Friends of Fernald suffered a setback last week when members of the University of California Board of Regents refused to overturn UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young's decision to close the Fernald school and research center for learning disabilities.

The board's educational policy committee Thursday heard an appeal by school supporters at a meeting in Davis attended by 18 of the 25 regents, a UC spokesman said.

The regents expressed concern about the displacement of 70 learning-handicapped students, said Ron Kolb of the University of California president's office, but eventually they concluded that the closure decision is within Young's jurisdiction and should not be overruled.

Parents were disappointed, but spokeswoman Diane Cornwell, who presented the appeal to the regents, said she remains hopeful that the school can be saved.

She said UC President David P. Gardner suggested at the meeting that an alternate site might be found for Fernald. "I felt he left some kind of negotiating room for us," Cornwell said, adding that parents plan to continue efforts to save the 65-year-old school, which is slated for closure June 30.

Friends of Fernald will hold a strategy session at 2 p.m. today at the school.

Parents were stunned last month when they received notices that Young had decided to close Fernald and that funds instead would be diverted directly to the university for research on childhood disabilities.

In announcing Young's decision, officials cited the availability of other schools in the Los Angeles area that serve children with learning disabilities.

But parents are concerned about the emotional trauma of transfering their children, who already have learning problems, to other schools, said Michael Cornwell, co-chairman of Friends of Fernald. Fernald, located on the UCLA campus, provides research and teacher training in a school setting. Students range in age from 7 to 20, and many are unable to attend public school because of their learning problems.

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