9-R bungled handling of special-ed program

Some very serious issues are not being addressed concerning Durango School District 9-R’s abrupt decision to close the special-needs classrooms in our schools. Three of them are honesty, compassion and trust. Let’s have honesty and clear communication, please. It is clear to everyone that this is a budget cut, not a better programming move as Superintendent Daniel Snowberger claimed (Herald, May 11). District 9-R will now charge out-of-district parents $15,000 to enroll their special-needs children in Durango schools, instead of losing $6,500 per child. Yet it does not appear that the administration is prepared to meet these children’s needs next year in as effective a manner as they are now.

The biggest concern is an issue of compassion. Replacing the supportive special-needs classrooms with full “integration” into regular classrooms without special ed teachers may allow a few students to succeed, but most will fall through the cracks. It was absurd to hear Snowberger suggest that these children, many of whom need physical care, could grow up to be skilled “electricians” and therefore didn’t need support. I’ve helped in special-needs homerooms all over the district, and I have found them to be oases of loving support for these highly sensitive children. I cannot imagine how they will fare when thrown into general-ed classrooms on their own. This issue is of immense concern to special needs professionals and parents in our region.

Finally, there is a breach of trust in how 9-R handled this change. The news fell like an axe, without previous consultation with the dedicated professionals in the special-needs departments. Subsequent communications have been insulting. Shock, distrust and low morale are left in the wake of this mess. As a resident of this exceptional community, it is important to me that one of our largest employers creates an atmosphere of trust and care for its people, and not act like a large national corporation. District 9-R owes these employees an apology. I hope our community hears from the general-ed teachers. A very large challenge is being dropped on their overfull laps.

Jess Martin


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