DeKALB – School Board member Jeff Hallgren questioned the district's desire to add additional special education courses, as Christy Meyer, director of special education for the district, said instructors have reported a rise in students with special needs.
According to the agenda, more students are being placed into the district’s fifth grade Intensive Academic program than originally planned. There are now 17 students who need specialized instruction, as opposed to the original estimate of 14.
Meyer’s request, which was not voted on at Tuesday’s meeting, requests one full-time special education teacher and one paraprofessional for the program. Each intensive classroom can have a maximum of 13 students with one special education teacher and one program assistant, or paraprofessional, per the Illinois State Board of Education, according to the agenda.
"Here's my issue: we saw this coming," Hallgren said. "You saw it growing from one [class]. You must have see that this was going going from 8, to 9, to 10, and now we're at 17. We must have anticipated to a certain extent the fact that we would need another full-time instructor."
Meyer said at the end of the school year, teachers, administrators, and even parents can weigh in on whether or not a student places in an individualized education program or not.
"We could get creative in order to serve 14 [students]," Meyer said. "But when the actual numbers came six weeks later to 17, we cannot serve 17. Because you have 17 fifth graders that need to access their general ed classrooms, and those are only two classrooms at Malta Elementary for those 17 students to integrate into. That drives the ratio too high for special ed and general ed."
"In my brief period of time on this board, I see a lot of you," Hallgren said to Meyer.
"I represent the 1,100 students that we have with specialized needs," Meyer responded. "And specialized needs requires specialized instruction, equipment, and rooms."
Board member Victoria Newport agreed with Hallgren.
"You think they'd be on our radar," Newport said, wondering why the district was now identifying additional students.
Meyer, along with Superintendent Jamie Craven and other board members, said the process of identifying students who require individualized instruction is extensive, often with legal and time-restrictions ramifications.
"It's against the law to determine placement prior to the [Individualized Education Program] placement meeting," Meyer said. "Unfortunately, we have those meetings through May."