Delta County Joint School District #50 is responsible for providing special education and related services at no cost for children between the ages of 3 and 21 with disabilities. Just over 10 percent of the students in Delta County are eligible for the free services, compared to 9.7 percent in Montrose County and 10.4 percent in Mesa County.
Nationally, students with disabilities make up about 13 percent of the student population.
An overview of the services provided to students with disabilities, presented by Sandie Jungers, director of special services, was the topic of a recent focus meeting with the Delta County School Board. School board members, three of whom are newly elected, host the focus meetings periodically to educate themselves about different aspects of operations. Personnel, the budget and curriculum have also been topics of focus meetings.
Jungers explained that each student is individually assessed to determine eligibility for special education and what services or programs would be most appropriate. To the extent possible, children with disabilities are educated with their peers. Removal of children with disabilities from the general educational environment occurs only if the disability is so severe, the child can not be satisfactorily educated even with the use of aids and supplementary services. "All children with or without disabilities deserve the opportunity to participate with their peers, develop friendships, and receive an appropriate education. That is what the special education staffs strive for when planning a program for students with special needs," Jungers said.
Special education services are available in the district's alternative programs, as well as traditional schools. The district provides special services to 571 students in the traditional schools, including 39 students in Vision schools. Last fall, the district added a part-time special education coordinator to work with the Vision schools and their families. The coordinator doesn't work directly with the students, except to conduct evaluations or progress monitor. She meets with the resource consultants to make sure the curriculum matches the student's needs, and she works with parents to coordinate services that are available only at traditional schools, such as speech therapy.
The school district employs five speech therapists, three part-time occupational therapists, five school psychologists, half-time audiologist, and 29 certified teachers. In the traditional and Vision schools, 74 paraprofessionals work with students with disabilities or special education staff. Some are part-time employees. Jungers said, "We have an excellent staff, both certified and classified, who work with our students with disabilities. It does get tricky at times to schedule staff that are shared between buildings but we have dedicated staff who make it work."
For four consecutive years, Delta County's special services department has achieved the highest level of recognition from the state for complying with the state and federal laws concerning special education. Test scores, however, are below the state level in reading, writing and math. While students with disabilities' scores have remained stable, the achievement bar is being raised for all students in Colorado. Each building staff is working to address these gaps and increase student growth.blog comments powered by Disqus