Seymour Community School Corp. continues to experience growth in the number of students receiving special education services.
With that growth comes more state dollars to help meet the needs of those students.
On Dec. 1, all Hoosier school districts provided the Indiana Department of Education with a count of how many students they have enrolled in special education programs. Funding for the remainder of the year is based on the Dec. 1 count.
Mika Ahlbrand, director of special education for Seymour, reported last week the corporation has a total of 907 students with special needs, including emotional disabilities, autism, learning disabilities, speech, hearing and vision impairments and others.
That’s 49 more students than in 2015, meaning the district will receive $131,750 more, for a total of $2,775,100 in state funding for special education.
Since 2012, Seymour has had a total increase of 295 students in special education, resulting in a total funding increase of $921,288 in five years.
“Our students with autism have shown the biggest growth over the last four or five years with 20 students more than we were in 2012,” she said.
She attributes the growth to the success of programs such as SOAR at Emerson Elementary and BEST at Seymour-Redding Elementary, which support students with autism.
“I also think we have very well-educated parents that ask for that testing,” she said of identifying special needs students. “We get a lot of parent requests.”
The only decrease the corporation saw was in the number of special education preschool students because of the termination of the Seymour GRADS Preschool program, Ahlbrand said. That resulted in a drop of nine students this year and a loss of $24,750 in special education funding; however, the district continues to serve 60 special needs preschool students in other programs.
Ahlbrand said the enrollment numbers show growth of between 30 and 50 special education students in each school building over a 5-year period, except Cortland, which hasn’t seen an increase since 2014.
Seymour-Redding and Seymour-Jackson elementaries have seen the most growth in special education with 49 more students identified than they had in 2012.
Seymour Community School Corp. also provides special education services to students attending non-public schools in the area, and has seen that enrollment more than double in five years with a total increase of 58 students, Ahlbrand said.
Besides state funding, school districts receive federal special education dollars too, which are allocated by the state in the form of grants. That money is used to pay for professional development for special education teachers and staff, supplies, salaries and benefits.
For 2016, Seymour received $1,096,621 in federal special education grant funding, an increase of $68,345 total from the previous year. The district will apply for a total of $1,140,718 for 2017.