HISNDALE — High School District 86 will provide special education services in-house for the first time this year, having withdrawn from the regional special ed cooperative last school year.
The staff is ready for the task, said Joyce Powell, District 86’s director of student services.
The district was required to file its plan with the Illinois State Board of Education Advisory Council in April.
“It really indicated our readiness to function as an independent district,” Powell said. “One of the major benefits is the opportunity to hire our own staff.”
Previously, employees of the La Grange Area Department of Special Education Cooperative provided services, such as speech and physical therapy, to students.
The district also has been hosting presentations for its teaching staff about recognizing and addressing student disabilities, even before the decision to leave LADSE, Powell said. Specifically, administrators have recognized the growing number of students with autism in the district and have brought in speakers on the topic.
Providing the services needed for this year’s special education students required the hiring of the equivalent of 15 full-time employees, interim business manager Gary Lonquist said.
Some of the staff were hired away from LADSE, and are the same individuals who helped District 86 students last year.
In addition to educational and psychological services, the district also will take on duties, such as organizing transportation for special ed students, data collection and record-keeping to comply with state requirements.
Powell said the district stands ready for the start of school, but will continue to assess the program.
“I know there are areas we need changes in,” Powell said.
State educators will visit for a compliance check in the second semester, she said.
Despite the additional staff, district officials estimate it will cost about $500,000 less to provide the needed services themselves than to contract for them with LADSE.
The district paid LADSE $1.24 million last school year, Lonquist said.
The federal funds to which the district is entitled to educate its students with disabilities went directly to LADSE. This school year, the district will receive those federal funds and personnel reimbursement, estimated to be about $890,000, Lonquist said.
The district is budgeting about $1.6 million for special education expenses this school year. When that amount is offset by the federal grant money, the net cost is estimated to be $737,000, Lonquist said, or about $507,000 less than what LADSE charged the district last year.