Special Education Changes

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There's a new way of thinking, but it's not going over very well. Last week, the Rockford Public School District announced plans to completely break up a school that has been in existence since 1974. The concept isn't anything that doesn't already exist. Two years ago the same situation plagued the Belvidere School District. At that time the federal government advised districts to look into how to get special education students into the least restrictive environment. Now districts are being told they have 2 years to change. That is why Rockford wants to re-locate students from Page Park.

Rockford Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson says, "The question is do those programs at Page Park occur at other schools “yes” they exist do I presume they have the same fidelity, “no."

The Belvidere School District used to have all special education students at one school. But in 2003 special education students were integrated into schools that were handicap accessible.

Belvidere Superintendent Don Schlomann says, "There really isn't too much to fear. The best part is exposing regular kids to handicapped kids so they understand those students exist."

12% of the kids in the district are classified as special education students. And like the rest of the district that number is growing. Schlomann told 23 News, "We're building a new elementary school and we designed three classrooms just for specialized students."

Students will still be integrated into classrooms but will receive therapy in that space. Superintendent Schlomann says it was tough for everyone to accept initially but now there are no complaints. Page Park officials say about one-third of the students would be fine in another school. But about half are said to only thrive in a separate facility.