The school district is making progress in addressing thousands of hours of speech therapy sessions it failed to provide special education students.
6,468 hours of compensatory speech therapy services have been provided to students as of Nov. 30, according to the district, reducing the backlog of hours from the 2016-17 school year.
“We still have a long way to go in working through the backlog of compensatory services. But we are moving in the right direction and we will not waver in our commitment to our students and their families,” said superintendent Eileen Shafer.
The district still has 11,622 hours speech therapy backlog from 2016-17 school year. And another 17,024 hours from the 2017-18 school year.
“We are doing everything possible to provide students with the services they need. We face some challenging circumstances, but we are undauntedly moving forward,” said Cheryl Coy, chief special education officer at the school district.
Shafer has said her administration needs $1.5 million to make a dent in the backlog. She recently hired 20 new speech therapists, pushing the district’s total to 48. Her administration subtracted 709 hours due to “students being discharged after completing their programs” and “parents declining offer of compensatory services.”
The district has been sending letters to parents giving them the option to decline services. These letters provide limited options for their children to receive owed speech therapy, according to parents.
“When you are not giving enough options, people have a tendency to decline,” said Karen Agosto. When she received a letter from the district, there were no Saturday or afterschool times to make up the speech therapy hours, she said.
Parents view the district’s decline choice with limited options as the district cutting corners and shirking responsibility to provide special education students their owed sessions.
The district will begin running a Saturday program beginning Jan. 26, 2019. Paul Brubaker, spokesman for the school district, said the district is also planning a summer program to get the students caught up.
Brubaker said parents were being informed of both the Saturday and summer options.
School officials said parents, who declined hours for their children, cannot undo their choice.
State law mandates the school district to provide speech therapy to students, who require the services based on their individual education plans (IEPs).