O'Fallon Progress

District 203 retooling special education program

Darcy Benway
Darcy Benway

O’Fallon District 203 has a lot of behind-the-scenes work to do to accommodate the 12 students previously served by the Belleville Area Special Services Cooperative, which the district opted to withdraw from.

The District 203 school board will need to approve any personnel changes and any classrooms required to house its special education students, Superintendent Darcy Benway said on Friday.

The district is looking to expand its special education services to include classrooms for students who have emotional, social and behavioral issues, she said.

The district is also looking at operating its own autism classroom, according to the district’s 13-page Rationale for Petitioning to Withdraw from BASSC, a cooperative made up of most area school districts that allows them to pool services for special-needs students.

Among other things, OTHS is planning to add a psychologist and a special education coordinator to the faculty who will support current and future programming needs of special education students. OTHS also intends to contract for hearing and vision needs, music therapy and augmentative communication.

District 203 has 12 students enrolled at BASSC currently, Benway said.

However, Benway said there are approximately 300 students in the district with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), or 13 percent of the district’s total enrollment.

Benway said the district will reallocate the $496,383 it currently pays BASCC “to support high quality educational services for students throughout the district.”

OTHS currently offers a wide continuum of stand-alone special education programming to support its students with disabilities: regular education with accommodations and/or related services, 75 special education classes (English, math, science, social studies, business, driver education, adaptive P.E., computer/tech, and resource study skills), two self-contained cross-categorical classrooms, and a self-contained transition house for students ages 18 to 21.

Special education students at OTHS include severely disabled students impacted by medical and physical disabilities, cognitive delays, learning challenges, social-emotional disabilities and autism.

Over the past several years, District 203 has committed additional resources to its special education programming and has created the organizational structure necessary to become a stand-alone special education district, Benway said.

The district employs its own full-time state certified special education director, part-time special education coordinator, chief school business official, special education department chairperson, special education clerical staff, social workers, counselors, speech-language pathologist, nursing/health staff and building-level administration with special education endorsements. In addition, the district has developed support systems essential to meeting the needs of its special education population, and intends to increase supports as outlined in its Special Education Comprehensive Plan.

Mark Hodapp: 618-239-2688.

Timeline of activities regarding OTHS’s withdrawal from BASSC

  • June 18, 2015: District 203 School Board approves resolution and petition to withdraw
  • Sept. 24, 2015: District 203 files petition with Regional Board of School Trustees
  • Sept. 25, 2015: District 203 meets with Illinois State Board of Education on Comprehensive Plan
  • Oct. 9, 2015: District presents it plans to the OTHS faculty and staff
  • Oct. 14, 2015: District holds parent meeting on withdrawal
  • Oct. 21, 2015: District makes presentation to BASSC member districts
  • Oct. 22, 2015: Presentation of final draft of Comprehensive Special Education Plan to OTHS Board of Education
  • Nov. 1, 2015: District submitted comprehensive plan to Illinois State Advisory Council of the Education of Children with Disabilities
  • Dec. 9, 2015: District makes presentation to Illinois State Advisory Council of the Education of Children with Disabilities
  • Dec. 10, 2015: Illinois State Advisory Council of the Education of Children with Disabilities recommended approval of OTHS Comprehensive Plan to Illinois State Board of Education
  • Dec. 15, 2015: Notice received from Illinois State Board of Education approving OTHS Comprehensive Plan
  • Jan. 19, 2016: Hearing on withdrawal petition by Regional Board of School Trustees of St. Clair and Clinton Counties
  • Jan. 19, 2016: Regional Board of School Trustees approved petition