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District 93’s Special Education Program Struggles to Keep Up with Growth

District 93’s Special Education Program Struggles to Keep Up with Growth
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School District 93 is one of the fastest growing in Idaho.

It’s adding 400 students a year, a problem that especially affects special education students. The district’s special education program is having trouble accommodating the district’s growth.

The new Thunder Ridge High School and the recent vote to add a middle school mean the number of special education students in the upper levels should even out.

But, a solution is yet to be found for special education students at the elementary level.

Cara McCartney is a special education teacher at Mountain Valley Elementary School. She’s been teaching students with disabilities for 20 years.

“I really love it, and enjoy the kids and the challenges that we run into day-to-day,” said McCartney.

But since District 93’s special education program started five years ago, the program has grown from just over 1,000 students to almost 1,700 students.

“I really have a passion for students with special needs, I just love every student that I have,” said McCartney, “But I do fear that as we continue to grow here within the district that we’re going to run into some problems trying to meet all those needs.”

District officials say it’s tough to find enough qualified special education teachers like Cara.

Special education students need more adults in the classroom than general education students, especially because the district’s program individualizes each student’s needs. 

“Every single kid has a slightly different program,” said District 93’s Special Education Director Julian Duffey, “So each table has five or six educational methods going on all at the same time, so it becomes really hard to coordinate.”

An ideal special education classroom holds 10 to 15 students, but elementary schools in District 93 are seeing special education classes in the 20s’ and 30s’.

The district has dealt with the problem by taking over empty classrooms in various elementary schools, and adding portables. But officials say they need a permanent solution.

District officials hope to eventually have a bond vote to expand the special education program, but it’s not clear if that would mean a new elementary school, or just an expansion of their existing program.

The earliest there could be a bond vote is in August.

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