It was a fun, spooky fest at Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s transportation department on Halloween as more than 100 students with severe disabilities were treated to a haunted house event.
Many of the students who attended would not have had the opportunity to trick-or-treat otherwise, said Pete Meslin, transportation director of Newport-Mesa Unified, located in Southern California. “We get to give that right of childhood to them and their parents,” he added.
About 122 students from four different elementary schools attended the haunted house, which was decorated by school bus drivers, dispatchers and office staff during their breaks or after work for as far as two weeks in advance. This is the tenth year the transportation department has hosted this event.
Meslin said about 20 students attended the very first haunted house, along with some transportation staff and special education staff. The intent of the event was to improve his department’s partnership with special educators. He added that a lot was learned since then. “For example, candy, all the excitement, and a short bus ride back to school do not mix well,” he explained.
Year two had more students, and no candy. Since then the event has grown in attendance and participation by staff and administrators. “It is now not uncommon to see the superintendent standing next to a driver, who is standing next to a classroom aide, all of whom are admiring a student in a wheelchair who is dressed in a beautiful princess costume,” Meslin said.
He also noted that the event is quite easy to organize; yet the benefits are enormous.
“This celebration serves to remind us of why we’re here, and many of us would have trouble living without it. We work in a great industry where people care so much and are so giving,” Meslin said. “The Transportation Haunted House allows us to show, in a small way, that we care the most for those who need the most care.”