District 622 to hire more special education teachers

While total enrollment is nearly the same this school year as last, District 622 has seen a small spike in the number of students enrolled in special-education programs, and needs to hire additional staff to meet state requirements for student-teacher ratios.

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School Board approved a resolution at its Sept. 22 meeting to hire the equivalent of 10 full-time teachers in its special-education department. The district will hire a mix of teachers and paraprofessionals as soon as possible.

Student Services director Cory McIntyre said District 622 has a highly transient student body, and his department keeps track of shifting enrollment numbers on a weekly basis.

"We knew in the spring this was going to be tight, but not this tight," he said at the board meeting.

Superintendent Christine Osorio said the district saw a number of students with one-on-one paraprofessional requirements enroll just before the start of the school year.

McIntyre said there were 128 students in the district's autism program, and noted the recommended number of students in that program with current staffing numbers should be 112.

"I believe we have obligations to serve these students, and we can't ask staff to work beyond capacity," board chair Theresa Auge said.

The impact to the district's budget would be minor, due to special education and medical assistance dollars exceeding budgeted revenues by over $1 million, McIntyre said.

"It's a good problem to have," he told the Review. "We do our best to provide a really good program and services [for special-needs students]. Some challenges are staffing and space, but we are making it work. I'd rather have growth be the problem than the other way around."

He said the district has done "a great job" with identifying children with special needs and providing them with early-intervention services.

—Joshua Nielsen

 

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