Around 130 Metro special education professionals are out of a job and wondering what happens next.
Metro Nashville Public Schools announced positions would be cut, because federal stimulus money used to fill some of these jobs has run out and will not be replaced.
Concerned parents, teachers and community members packed a room at the Nashville Airport Marriott Hotel Friday morning to express their concerns.
"We can cut a little now, but I think we're going to pay a lot later. It just doesn't make sense," said parent Belinda Pandey.
Pandey has two children with special needs in the Metro school system.
Pandey's son Justin is about to enter high school and her younger son is in middle school.
"I think that this is a very short sighted cut in that this is really our window to affect change with this population," she said.
Pandey also added, "In the middle school one of my two children attends, the paraprofessional population has been cut from six to two, so that's a two thirds drop. And we've lost one out of three special ed teachers. When you take a classroom aid down 66% and you're taking the populations of three classes and putting them into two, it's definitely an overcrowding situation."
In Metro schools, students like Justin attend class with the general population.
It's this "inclusionary" method of instruction parents worry will suffer.
"With 130 paraprofessionals exiting the classrooms, some teachers will have no other option, but to use isolation and seclusion, which is heart breaking," said Daynise Couch, a parent with a special needs child in MNPS.
Nashville's News 2 talked with one of assistants now out of a job.
She did not want to be identified, but said she's worked in MNPS for nearly 20 years, "We have a life to live. They're interfering with peoples' lives, not only our lives, but the children's lives they're going to affect because they're taking us away from them."
"I'm worried about what's going to happen in the classroom and how effective the teaching skills are going to be without us," she added.
MNPS spokesperson Meredith Libbey said the district knew all along this federal stimulus money was going away and that some jobs would eventually have to be cut.
Libbey said the district did a school by school, teacher by teacher analysis of the positions.
"In doing that analysis, we did find for example, we had some paraprofessionals who were no longer able to meet the physical demands of the job," said Libbey. "That might include lifting a child, that they were physically no longer capable."
Libbey also added, "Nashville public schools spend more in local funds per student than any other district in Tennessee. We are a district that embraces all children, whatever their background, whatever their needs. We want all of them to be successful."
Some displaced assistants attended a job fair held by Metro Schools Friday afternoon.
Libbey said she felt good about the number of paraprofessionals they would be able to place in different positions, like food service or transportation, but it's not clear how many actual open jobs there are.
The Exceptional Education Family Advisory Committee has scheduled a special meeting with school officials on Monday at 11 a.m.
Concerned community members, parents and teachers are invited to voice their concerns at the MNPS district office building on Bransford Avenue.