Increased need for special education services a concern as Haleyville BOE passes budget

HALEYVILLE     -  The high rate that students requiring specialized instruction is increasing at Haleyville City Schools does not equal the amount of funding required, as school officials have reached out for financial assistance from their state legislators on the matter.
During the annual budget hearing for HCS, conducted by Chief School Financial Officer Candy Marbutt, the topic of the growing student population of specialized instruction students again became the center of concern and discussion.
“Unfortunately, funding for these services does not increase at the same rate,” pointed out HCS Superintendent Dr Holly Sutherland.
“We have been blessed to have Special Education directors who go above and beyond to secure funding, to ensure we are providing all students the best educational opportunities possible,” added Sutherland.
“We could not provide the high quality learning opportunities without these supplementary funds,” she pointed out. “We hope to see additional funding for special education in the 2024 legislative budget,” Sutherland emphasized.
HCS is currently serving 255 special needs students preschool through 12th grade, which marks an increase of 22 students since last fall, Marbutt pointed out.
A breakdown of these students shows 16 students with autism, 26 with developmental delays, 12 with intellectual disabilities, 13 with health impairments, 143 specific learning disabilities, 43 with speech language impairment, one student with visual impairment and one student with multiple disabilities, Marbutt explained to board members.
“You can see the largest areas of increase is in a specific learning disability and the speech language impairment,” Marbutt noted.
Special Education also has a new category this year, the one for multiple disabilities, she added.
Concerning related services for Special Education, 21 require special transportation, 30 requiring full time adult support (preK-12th grade), three requiring one-on-one support, two requiring counseling, 38 requiring occupational therapy, seven requiring physical therapy and 59 requiring special education plus speech therapy, Marbutt explained.
At the elementary school, a high quality sensory room is set up to assist special education students, according to Marbutt.
In northwest Alabama, it is difficult to recruit employees to work in the special education program, Marbutt pointed out.
“I think that’s probably a statewide thing,” Marbutt told board members. “But it is especially hard in our area.”
This past year, HCS was able to hire a new special education teacher, a speech language pathologist and two elementary paraprofessionals.
“We did retain a retired special education teacher under contract, so, at this time, we have 12 full time, five partial and those are all paid with grants,” Marbutt stated.
“How many of those are certified for special education,” board member Donna Jones asked.
“All of them,” responded Marbutt.


See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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