On Aug. 11, at the third informational meeting concerning the implementation of an inclusion program at the pre-kindergarten level, parents of children with disabilities continued to voice concerns about the speed at which the program was being implemented and questioned whether teachers would be adequately trained and prepared to provide services to their children.
Under the initiative, some students participating in Services for Pre-Primary Age Children (SPPAC), a program for children with disabilities, would receive services in the same classrooms as children in the Head Start or Pre-K programs. The program was first announced in a June 15 memorandum to the Board.
Superintendent Hardy Murphy said, “We’re not eliminating an option. We’re including more options.” If a child needs a self-contained setting, “the traditional SPPAC classrooms are not being eliminated.”
Parents were concerned that a lot still remains to be done before school starts on Aug. 31. Administrators said they plan to send a letter to the parents of children who are identified as potential candidates for successful inclusion, and ask that an IEP meeting be reconvened. The IEP team, together with the parents, will decide if inclusion is appropriate for a child, and if so modify the IEP.
So far letters to reconvene IEP meetings have not been sent. The administration said parents should receive the letters no later than Aug. 21. By law, a ten day notice must be given before convening an IEP meeting, but that the time limit may be waived. Until that process is completed, it appears there will be uncertainty concerning the number of inclusion classes, the number of SPPAC classes, and perhaps some teaching assignments.
Professional training sessions have been held over the summer, but administrators said not all teachers have attended the sessions. Geneva Oatman, director of special services and early childhood education, said additional training sessions are scheduled before school starts, and professional development will continue to take place throughout the year.
Parents who attended the meeting voiced strong support for the SPPAC staff. They also said they supported inclusion. Many said, though, that doing what remained to be done in the last two weeks before school started showed a lack of preparation and was not the right way to implement a program.
A number of parents also voiced concern that the program was not explained in writing and that the administration did not respond in writing to a letter (signed by 23 parents) that asked that details concerning the program be confirmed in writing. They said if details concerning the program were put in writing, it would create trust.
Dr. Murphy said as the program progressed, it would evolve; and it was premature to put details concerning the program in writing. He said he thought there were children in the SPAAC program who would benefit from inclusion, and that the District would be prepared to meet their needs. “Consultants are telling us to move forward, ‘you’re doing the right thing,’” he said.
For a prior article, see “D65 Expanding Inclusion to Early Childhood Level: Parents Raise Concerns,” July 22, 2009.