A Transition Program is starting at the High School to enable their older Special Education students, ages 18 to 21, to learn life and employment skills they will need once their time at Wallenpaupack is completed.
WALLENPAUPACK – A Transition Program is starting at the High School to enable their older Special Education students, ages 18 to 21, to learn life and employment skills they will need once their time at Wallenpaupack is completed.
The school board was briefed about the program on February 11.
Tanya Carrelle, Director of Special Education, said that in the past these students take the life skills program at the High School, but then may go on to programs offered in Scranton to coach them in independent living and how to gain employment. The cost for these programs and for transportation has been costly for the district. Carrelle added, “We also think we can do a better job here, at Wallenpaupack.”
To that end, the district is expanding its off-the-rack clothing store and the kitchen which will have some commercial products. There will also be a coffee shop, which will cater to school employees. Special Ed Transition students will have opportunities to learn employment skills in each of these areas.
They presently work in the school’s clothing store,which serves anyone in the student body in need.
Independent living skills will be offered, including how to manage money and insurance. Another component is sending Transition students into the community for job shadowing and practicing their skills. Elective classes will also be available at the High School that will relate to their area of interest.
Carrelle said this may also be expanded into a consortium, inviting Wayne Highlands and Western Wayne school districts to participate, as space allows. This would also help offset the costs.
“In the end this will save us money to do the program ourselves,” Carrelle said. “We think our students will benefit more from our community instead of going out to Scranton…”
She stated in a News Eagle interview that the present method is costing the district about $100,000 every school year, and much of that is for transporting the students to Scranton and back.
She said that they expect to have six or eight students in the program next year.
Eligibility requirements are that they must be in the special education program, between the ages of 18 and 21, and be at the functional level that they can be employed and live independently.
Another special education teacher will be added for the Transition Program. The district’s Transition Coordinator, Melissa Regenski, will be assisting, Carrelle stated.
The district presently has a life skills program, Carrelle said, but academics are included. That will still be in use, but new life skills program focuses on independent living and gaining employment.
Grimm Construction received the bid for renovations at the High School, to provide for the Transition Suite.
The Transition Program is planned to be ready for the 2019-2020 school year.
In all, Wallenpaupack serves about 700 special education students.
Improve Special Ed scores
The school district was recently evaluated by the state for its School Performance Profile, High School Principal Jim Kane, told the board.
Areas needing improvement were identified in the Special Education program.
The evaluation was based on students being able to meet certain targets. Each school was evaluated for certain populations of students under particular categories. Special Education students did not meet the state’s proficiency levels in math and language arts. Kane said they also fell short on attendance. Kane said this is an opportunity to collaborate on a plan to address the needs.
In the High School there are multi-handicap classrooms. Many of the Special Ed students, he said, are “fragile” and need to be hospitalized. They are out of school for an extended amount of time. They are marked “absent” which is counted against the district.
Kane said they will look at how they identify those students that are absent.
The district was notified by the Northeast Education Intermediate Unit (NEIU) in November that the district falls under the need for a “Targeted School Improvement.” A steering committee formed of administrators, teachers, students, parents and the community was formed. Kane is the committee chairperson. Kane said they really wanted to include parents of Special Ed students on the committee. The plan will be formed from March to May.
The plan will be brought before the school board and superintendent for review in May. By July 1st the plan needs to be adopted, and put into action for the next three years.
Kane stated that the district has also expanded the Co-Teach program which allows Special Ed students to sit in regular English classes. This may also be expanded to math classes.
[Other school board items will be reported separately.]
The next WASD school board meeting is slated for Monday, March 11 at 6 p.m. at the High School Library. A committee meeting precedes it at 5:30 p.m.