District serving increased number of students with special needs

(Posted April 10, 2024)

By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer

The special education program in the Jefferson Local School District is serving an increased number of students who have identified needs.

At the April 9 school board meeting, department supervisor Mike Hamm and school psychologist Nick Smith provided an update on enrollment, student statistics, and changes coming next year.

In a recent evaluation, the school district met all 15 special education indicators, including grade level language arts and math assessments and proficiency and knowledge and emotional growth.

According to Hamm, changes for the 2024-25 school year include a higher level of reading intervention at Norwood Elementary, staff placement and case management, additional training in special education for administrators, and the potential for additional support at the school psychologist level.

Spurring the changes is a steady increase in the number of students identified for services.

“We’re transitioning a lot of preschool students,” reported Hamm. “Fourteen (students) is a sizeable number.”

Within a total school population of approximately 1,000 students, Smith said more than 200 students have been identified as having a disability.

“Our percentage of kids identified is that of districts two to three times our size,” Smith said.

Smith reported that six students have been identified as having multiple disabilities and need the most assistance. Thirty- eight students have been identified with a speech and language disability. Nearly a dozen students have an emotional disturbance identification, 79 have a specific learning disability, and 20 have been identified as having autism.

A few students have major health impairments, 28 have been identified with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and those identified with developmental disabilities are, according to Smith, nearly exclusively in preschool.

“Our overall numbers are high,” he said. “We had79 parent requests. Most districts get 10 to 12. The scale of requests is on an entirely different plane.”

Of the 79 requests, Smith said 32 evaluations were done and 40 other students were referred to other sources.

“The numbers have been increasing for the last couple of years,” Smith said, noting that Jefferson Local is not alone in the increase in special education cases.

“Across the board, it’s been a crazy busy year. “We’ve all (other school districts) seen an increase for referrals,” he said.

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