Juneau School District combines special ed programs

The Juneau School District is combining some of its special education programs, changes district administrators say should help the programs operate more efficiently.

“We did have a reduction of two full-time special education teachers, and that’s how we’re accomplishing that,” said Brad Hoyt, the district’s director of student services, who oversees special education and other programs.

Hoyt said staff has notified all the families of those involved individually.

“Ninety-five percent were very supportive and understanding,” Hoyt said, which he said was appreciated by staff.

“It’s always difficult for a student to move from one school to the next,” he acknowledged.

Among the changes will be combining a Mendenhall River Elementary School class with a Glacier Valley Elementary School class together at Glacier Valley and doing the same with another Mendenhall River class and a Riverbend Elementary School class being combined at Mendenhall River.

That’s a total of about 15 students, but they are some of those with academic, behavioral or disability issues that take relatively high numbers of staff per student, Hoyt said.

The rationale behind both consolidations is low enrollment and trying to provide the best education possible without requiring the students to travel too far, he said

They’re trying to get a cluster where special education teachers can work together, when they can.

While the district is using the consolidation to help cope with the loss of staff, the goal is to provide the best service possible, he said.

“We would do this anyway,” even without the budget reduction, Hoyt said.

In a year, the district will also move a Floyd Dryden Middle School special education class to Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School, as an expected decrease in numbers make it more efficient to combine those programs.

Hoyt said when a special education teacher moved from Floyd Dryden to DZ in preperation for the change, some of the families asked if their students could move as well so they could remain with the same teacher.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.


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