With the decision to from to , the district is continuing to look into options for redistricting if needed—and the next idea being explored is to move some special education students.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder said during Tuesday’s board of education meeting that they are looking at the possibility of taking about six third-graders at Hamilton and moving them to in fourth grade, a year early.
But, Schilder emphasized throughout the evening, this idea would not have been considered had the idea of redistricting not already been on the table.
“There are benefits of doing this, but would we be thinking along these lines without redistricting?” he said. “No. There are some benefits. We are more and more optimistic that this would meet the needs of the children, we are reluctant to say it would be a better way, but in a different way.”
The most important thing, Schilder said, is that this process requires involving parents and teachers to determine if a move to Hillside would be beneficial to the individual students.
“There’s some neat programs at Hillside that we don’t have at the elementary schools,” he said.
Monica Butler, executive director of student services, said they have met with several ABA coordinators and teachers to determine if it would be possible to move the students to Hillside. And, she said, they spoke to Hillside principal Terry Pennington about the possible move.
“We were surprised at how open and positive Terry was, she was very enthusiastic,” Butler said. “They currently have two ABA classes, one for some of the older students and this year was the first year we have a younger class as well.”
Butler said the program for younger students has blossomed, and the teachers are excited for the opportunity to work with the students from Hamilton.
“Last summer, we outfitted one of the classrooms with a smart board, sink, stove, oven, microwave and all kinds of equipment,” she said. “It’s a life skills room.”
“If we could get students in a year early, they could start progressing so they are out in the community even more and earlier,” she added. “The teachers embraced the idea.”
Butler said they also spoke to the ABA teachers at Hamilton and to determine if moving the students would even be a viable option, and if they would be in support of it.
No matter what the decision is, Butler said, moving the students will be on an individual basis according to their own Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).
“We will look at students on an individual basis, and we felt that for those we’re looking at, it would be a very nice opportunity for them,” she said.
But at this point, Butler said, the evaluation still has to continue, as the district has only had a chance to make a preliminary call to parents of those students being considered.
“We are going into the complexity of the program, and assuring the parents that if we did this, we would be taking the existing staff with them,” she said. “We are not going to take students to a brand new building and not have anyone familiar with them.”
“I’m not sure we were able to assuage all parents’ concerns, but I think that’s because it’s something we just started thinking about,” she added. “I think we will be able to work in conjunction with the parents, and if the team feels this is not in the best interest of the students, it is not something we will be looking at.”
Schilder emphasized that moving the students will be done on an individual basis, determined by the IEPs and the student.
“If the team for any reason now or next week or next month thinks that it’s not appropriate for any child, but is for others, we will take care of that,” he said.
In addition, the district is continuing discussions about moving ABA programs to , particularly because that school is still under capacity.
Butler said that to do that, two new bathrooms would have to be built, which could cost upwards of $150,000.
One parent expressed concerns about moving the ABA students to Hillside, where they would be with students a year to two years older than them.
“I know [my son is] making progress now, and I want to make sure that progress continues,” he said. “Now he’s at a stage where he’s comfortable, likes the teachers and likes the kids.”
Schilder restated that the decision to move students will be made on an individual basis.
“The child study team will make the recommendation based on the individual needs of every child,” he said. “If it doesn’t match his needs, then the move will not be made for him.”