Special Education and the high school bond
Special Education and the high school bond
Posted on 10/21/2019
Special Education and the high school bond

During the 2012-13 school year there were nearly 2,500 students in the district receiving Special Education services. Today, there are more than 3,000. The number of students receiving these services has increased by nearly 100 this year alone.

The continuum of services provided has a wide range when it comes to meeting the needs of students. It could be a student who spends 30 minutes a week with a Speech and Language Pathologist, or a student needing more specialized support.

As the numbers have grown, so has the need for more instructional spaces designed specifically to meet the needs of students in Special Education, some with physical disabilities which require large pieces of equipment in the classroom and easily accessible bathrooms.

Karen Mool, Executive Director of Special Education says some features, such as an automatic push button to open the classroom door, can provide significant access for students with physical disabilities. “Those are the little things that do go a long way to help build students independence.”

An opportunity exists to make improvements to the physical environment of Special Education classrooms at Puyallup’s secondary schools.

On November 5, 2019 Puyallup voters will be asked to consider a $273 million high school bond to improve safety and security, provide additional classroom space, and meet current educational specifications for instructional spaces at Puyallup, Rogers, Emerald Ridge, and Walker high schools.

Aging secondary schools, student enrollment growth, and increasing and diverse special education needs has put a crunch on instructional classroom space designed to accommodate specific needs for some programs.

Currently, there are some classes held in portables or classrooms that were not designed for students with special needs.

Zeiger ElementaryZeiger Occupational Therapist Wendi Trummert makes a very small space work for up to five students at a time.

Another issue is having adequate space for related services staff. Occupational and Physical Therapist are sometimes placed in less than optimal spaces, such as a converted closet/conference room. At one school the Occupational Therapist’s space is shared with four other groups on a stage.

Plans are in the design phase to add classroom space which meets current educational specifications at Ballou, Ferrucci, and Stahl junior highs. Physical and educational needs for Special Education services are a part of the conversation and planning. The junior high construction projects are funded through State Match.

“As we do with all students the district serves, we want to provide the best possible environment to meet the educational and physical needs of students.”
   
Karen Mool, Executive Director of Special Education

Many of the buildings are older and when they were designed equal access, and specific instructional and physical supports may not have been a consideration. If passed, the bond would provide an opportunity to create spaces to support the needs of all students.

“With the increasing enrollment across the district as a whole, and within the special education programs, it is optimal if we can design instructional spaces which meet the needs of all students and have equal access throughout campus,” says Mool.