At last Tuesday’s Pine Bush Central School District Board of Education meeting the special education plan for school years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 was adopted.
The district currently serves 899 students with disabilities. The estimated budget for the two school years is $19,789,135. Instructional salaries and BOCES services make up the largest parts of the budget.
The plan outlined each special education program. The lowest level of special education on the least restrictive environment continuum are related services. These are developmental, corrective and other supportive services that are required to assist the student with a disability. These services include speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and vision therapy. Related services are offered to children in grades K-12 in the district.
The district provides direct and/or indirect consultant teacher services to students with disabilities in general education classrooms K-12. Special education consultant teachers collaborate with general education teachers to plan instructional accommodations and modifications for students with disabilities in general education settings.
The resource room program is for students with disabilities who are in need of specialized supplementary instruction in a small group setting for a specific subject area such as math or reading.
There will be a K-5 special education special class, consisting of up to 12 students. Each class has one special education teacher and one teaching assistant. Self-contained classrooms follow the general education curriculum, however, the material is often modified to meet individual student needs. The goal is to lead students to a less restrictive environment by fostering independence, responsibility and problem-solving skills.
In the K-5 integrated co-teaching program, the planning and instruction are shared by a general education teacher and a special education teacher. Students in the program learn grade level curriculum.
The Actively Building Language Environment (ABLE) classroom for grades K-2 features a special education teacher and two classroom paraprofessionals, with a class size ratio of 8:1:2. Students in this class have delays in several developmental areas, most significantly in the area of communication. Some students have social communication needs and require significant adult support. The use of a picture schedule and other visuals are often part of the classroom dynamic when needed. These students are instructed individually or in small groups where differentiation and individual lessons are taught. Students with these disabilities require a structured, routine-based school day with a small student to teacher ratio to be successful. Services and academic support are individualized and require repetition, hands-on support with a multisensory style of teaching.
The plan also calls for a self-contained Collaborative Academic Social Emotional Teaching and Learning Environment (CASTLE) program. This program for grades K-5 features classrooms where there is one special education teacher and two classroom teaching assistants, with a class size ratio of 8:1:2. Students in these classes have severe delays in social emotional regulation, including significant anxiety and emotional needs. The students work within the general education curriculum but require small group instruction with frequent positive reinforcement throughout the school day. A school counselor works collaboratively with the classes, infusing social emotional learning through counseling and group lessons.
The district will offer a self-contained life skills program for students transitioning from the elementary self-contained classes who have more significant disabilities and therefore have difficulty learning at the traditional pacing of grade level academic material. The class size ratio is 12:1:2 and will be offered at Crispell Middle School. The program offers students an opportunity to receive direct, multisensory instruction in English, math, science and social studies. In addition to learning core content tailored to the students’ individual levels, students will participate in a variety of electives including art, music, technology and physical education.
The Special Class Program at the secondary level offers students the opportunity to receive specially designed instruction in a small class environment, 15:1. Students also have an opportunity to receive a study hall period that focuses on skills and strategies.
There is also an integrated co-teaching class offered to students at the secondary level. Instruction is delivered by two certified teachers: one general education teacher and one special education teacher. Instruction is differentiated in all integrated co-teaching classes in order to meet individual learning needs. Students enrolled in these classes are expected to earn a NYS Regents Diploma.
Students in grades 9-12 with disabilities who meet the NYS requirements for alternate assessment can enroll in the self-contained life skills program at the high school. All academic classes follow a modified curriculum, which is adjusted according to students’ levels and abilities. Independent living and social skills are taught and applied throughout the program. Students are encouraged to participate in the School-to-Work component of the program, which offers students an opportunity to gain experience in an employment setting with the assistance of a job coach. Students leave the high school with a Skills and Academic Achievement Certificate.
Related services will also be available for preschool students at a site determined by the board of education. Special education itinerant services will also be at a site determined by the board. Special classes will be offered as well.
A student is placed in privately-operated programs when no public program is appropriate or available to meet that student’s particular needs. The program is supervised by the administration of that facility and is monitored by the district’s committee on special education. Programs include local BOCES classes and other local private schools that appropriately meet the individual needs of students determined by the committee on special education.
Severely impaired students can be sent to state operated schools such as New York School for the Deaf and New York School for the Blind.
Continued technology training for special education teachers will be part of the department’s meeting agendas and coaching sessions with the technology support staff will be offered. However, Director of Special Programs Terrilyn Cohn believes the staff benefited from online teaching.
“I believe they got a crash course over these last three or four months,” she said. “I would like to work with them on ways to use that so that they can differentiate for students, they can allow students with disabilities greater access to the general curriculum and encourage greater independence of students with disabilities, which will allow them more ownership of their learning.”
Superintendent of Schools Tim Mains commended the special programs department for their work developing the special education two-year plan.
“Terrilyn and her department do an outstanding job,” he said.