At Tuesday night’s Mechanicsburg Area School District Board meeting, the district’s director of student services presented a proposal for special education that relates to next year’s new realignment of the district’s elementary grades.
On Nov. 14, the school board approved new attendance areas for the 2018-19 school year that will affect students in the elementary grades.
Next year, Broad Street, Northside, Shepardstown and Upper Allen elementary schools will switch from their current configurations of grades 1-5 to accommodate grades 1-3. Elmwood Elementary School, also a current base for grades 1-5, will convert into a center for grades four and five. The Kindergarten Academy’s configuration will remain the same.
In consideration of these upcoming changes, Paul Bigham, the district’s director of student services, has proposed changes to the district’s alignment of special education services for elementary pupils “that focuses on equity as a priority.”
Currently, Mechanicsburg’s special education services for elementary grades are spread throughout its buildings somewhat sporadically. Not all special education services are available in all district buildings. As a result, some students must transfer out of their home schools to obtain needed services.
Special education services include, in part, support for students with autism, learning support, emotional support, speech and language therapy, and more. The district offers support at itinerant, supplemental and fulltime levels, but not all levels are available at all buildings. Today, a student progressing from one level to another at midyear often needs to be transferred to another building, Bigham said.
Bigham said he would like to see all this change next year with the elementary reconfiguration. His goal is offering services at all levels at all of the district’s elementary buildings. Elementary special education teachers would receive professional development to become “generalists,” or instructors who teach more than one genre of special services. This would eliminate the need to hire additional staff for the transition.
The exception is English language development services, which would be offered at the Upper Allen and Shepardstown buildings since the majority of students needing those services live in these attendance areas. Northside and Broad Street students would go to Shepardstown for this purpose.
The matter is under consideration by the school board, with a vote most likely taking place later this school year.