Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why Districts Are Spending More Money Now to Ensure Students with Autism Spend Less Time on the Bus in the Next School Year

By Lisa J. Hudson

A growing numbers of school districts in the Westmoreland County, Pa., region are establishing classrooms within their schools designed specifically for students with autism. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review attributes the increase in the number of schools trying this strategy to, "changing interpretations of education law (that) are pushing public schools to educate every student closer to home."

A few of the school officials interviewed for the Aug. 2 article also specifically cite the fact that students with autism attending schools closer to home will spend less time on school buses, which they see as a benefit.

The initial costs to set up a new, autism-specific classroom for as few as three to four students can be expensive. For example, a new kindergarten and first grade classroom at the Southmoreland Primary Center will cost up to $90,000 in the initial year for salary, benefits and special equipment, notes the paper. However, John Molnar, administrative assistant in the Southmoreland School District, says that compared to the cost of sending those students outside the district, it will in the long run be more cost effective to have them stay local. Additionally, Molnar notes, "What we're trying to do is get our youngest kids off the buses."

"It's a benefit to the taxpayers to educate these students in the district," notes Margaret Zimmer, the director of pupil services for the Norwin School District in commenting on the decision to establish a new classroom for seven severely autistic elementary students in the district.

Zimmer also told the paper the new class will allow the students to spend less time on buses and give them more exposure to their non-autistic peers.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We want this to be an open forum for the hundreds of thousands of people that are involved in transporting special needs students each day. We want to hear what you think, what's going on at your facility and what solutions you've found. But, please, keep it civil. Just like on the bus, we'll have no tolerance for attacks or anything defamatory. We won't write you up, but we'll delete the comments right away. So don't bother. But if you have something to share, this is your place.

STN Editors