D.C. Adding Classrooms for Special Needs Students

Lauren Williams's picture
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The District is opening extra public school classrooms for special education students with emotional disturbances, as part of an effort to reduce the large number of students who are sent to costly private facilities when public schools can't serve their needs.

Two classrooms, each serving 10 students, are planned for Options Public Charter School this school year. Another classroom at Eagle Academy Public Charter School is expected to accept students the following school year. In both cases, special education students whose home schools don't have adequate resources or staff to meet their needs will attend these "therapeutic classrooms" for a year or possibly longer.

Under federal law, the District must pay private-school tuition, sometimes to out-of-state facilities, for special education students when the public schools fail to meet the students' needs. D.C. school officials have been working to better serve special needs students within the public schools, as the city expects to spend $109.9 million this year to support the 1,700 students enrolled in private facilities.

By 2014, the city will have to move 598 students from private placements into public schools to meet a directive from Mayor Vincent Gray, who wanted the 2,200-student count cut in half by the end of his term.

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