Teaching high-needs students is being reworked and improved, not discarded


Recently, a lot of misinformation has surfaced on changes being made in School District 9-R to address the needs of students with special needs – particularly at Durango High School. A story (Herald, May 11) covering these changes appears to have caught little attention. It’s time to set the record straight!

There are clearly necessary changes taking place at DHS to address programs that were identified as deficient five years ago by the Department of Education. Little has been done since that time to make these changes. After closely monitoring the effectiveness of the program, my staff, the school administration at DHS, and I felt it necessary to restructure services for students who deserve a quality education, just like everyone else’s child.

The current program has done little to meet the individual needs of students. The “one-size-fits-all” approach has led to minimal growth and preparation for success as student’s age out of high school. Instead of serving students based on their program, the approach next year will be to program for each individual student’s needs – just as we treat every other child at DHS.

Seven special educators exist on staff, each with unique skills and expertise. The needs of each child will be determined and students will be scheduled for classes – sometimes with special-education teachers and other times in regular classroom if their ability and performance level allows it. For students who may struggle navigating the high school, appropriate staff will travel to students and classrooms designed to support students with the most significant needs. As needs for additional staff are identified, those needs will be filled.

Despite the rumors, high-need students are not being sent to regular classroom teachers to be served. Just as the honors student who requires specialized programming to challenge them, our special-needs students will receive similar focus instead of the simple placement in a “program” or specific “room” with little regard for their needs. Furthermore, the current support of students by students, called “kids to kids” will continue where appropriate as it provides students quality supports and allows them a true “high school experience.” Where a student’s needs are more significant, an adult aide will be employed to meet their needs as they have in the past.

It is disappointing that people without facts fail to seek accurate information from the source. We continue our efforts to ensure that every child has appropriate programming and the quality of education is improved for all students.

I continue to welcome communication directly from members of the community who wish to learn of changes we are making in 9-R.

Dan Snowberger is the superintendent of Durango School District 9-R. Reach him at DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.

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