So far, our group as a whole has been quite excited about the documentary process. After meeting a few times, we’ve come up with an idea that we’re all looking forward to pursuing over the next several months. We plan to film a documentary dealing with the issue of schools closing on the South Side of Chicago. I’m looking forward to seeing where the process takes us. As of now, we are working to find three different angles/storylines for our project, with two possible stories in mind. I’m most interested in trying to find a student who has a learning disability and attends a school that is about to close. I think that while a school closing in general would be extremely difficult to deal with as a kid, having a learning disability would make the process even harder. I imagine that a student with ADD/ADHD, dyslexia or some other learning disability has most likely adapted to their current school in many ways. For me, the most obvious adaptation would be that the student and his or her parents will have some sort of relationship with school administrators or the special education department, and because of this, the student already gets accommodations to deal with their learning disability, such as extra time on tests, or whatever is needed. If a student with learning disabilities is bussed to a new school, one that might even be overcrowded due to all the new students coming in, will he or she be able to get access to the same services that they had before? Will it be more difficult for them to learn in a different school setting? Would larger class sizes make it more difficult for the student to focus and learn? Will the student be able to get the same accommodations in the new school as in the old?
On a level that would perhaps be difficult to film, I also wonder how this student would adapt socially to a new school. To a certain extent, I imagine that a student with a learning disability has certain coping mechanisms already in place—perhaps a group of friends he or she feels comfortable with, or a way of coping in class. I think it would be amazing if we could figure out a way to capture this struggle as the student shifts to a new school as well.
At this point what I’m most worried about is access—I think that this story would be a great one to tell, and I bet it is an issue for several families in Chicago. My biggest concern is whether or not we will be able to connect with these families, and then on top of that if we will be able to get as much access that we need to tell this story in the most compelling way. I’m hoping that we can begin doing research on what schools are likely to close in June, and from there contact schools or advocacy groups to help us reach out and find a great main character.