By David Carroll

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)- Responding to reports that the Dawn School is targeted for closing, Hamilton County Supt. Dr. Jim Scales told School Board members "in no way are we talking about closing Dawn."

The Dawn program, located in the old White Oak Elementary building on Memorial Drive in Red Bank, accommodates students with emotional challenges and other special needs.

In recent weeks, Dawn employees, teachers and parents have contacted Eyewitness News School Patrol and other media outlets about a visit from county school administrators in early January.  According to the Dawn supporters, they were told the school would be closing, with the school's programs and students being dispatched to five county schools.  They say the school's secretary was told her job was being eliminated, and that she should apply for another position.

Dawn supporters say the program, in its current format and location, has proven effective for students who have experienced difficulties in neighborhood schools.  Many say the Dawn students are given the individual attention that is unavailable in "regular schools."

In a statement to the School Board, Dr. Scales said, "Exceptional education is very expensive, it is a huge piece of our budget.  But in no way are we talking about closing the Dawn program.  We are, however, talking about how we deliver services, and how we can save some dollars.  I can assure you we will do this in an expedient manner.  Before we go forward with any changes in Exceptional Education, we will bring it to the Board."

He continued, "We are under federal and state mandates.  We must provide services to all children, according to their Individual Education Programs."

Exceptional Education Director Margaret Abernathy echoed Dr. Scales' statement, saying, "There is no plan to close Dawn, or to close any contracts with Orange Grove Center.  We are committed to all our children, from the gifted, to our lowest-functioning students."