Three special education programs in the Red Deer Public School District will change locations next school year.
The Stepping Stones class at Oriole Park Elementary School will move to Aspen Heights Elementary School. The three Venture Middle School Program classes at G.H. Dawe Community School will be split among Eastview, Central and Glendale middle schools. The Odyssey High School Program at G.H. Dawe Community School will go to Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School.
Superintendent Don Falk said the changes mean students will have the opportunity to be included in regular classrooms in neighbourhood schools for at least a portion of the time they spend in class. He said the change will also give middle school and high school students access to option courses that require shops or labs, which are difficult for the students to access now.
The special education programs are generally for students who have severe behavioural or emotional disabilities.
However, some of the students in the Odyssey program do not have severe disabilities but have other unique needs.
The Stepping Stones class has been at Oriole Park since 1999 and offers programming for students from Grades 1 to 5 who have severe disabilities. Three of the seven students currently enrolled, who aren’t yet moving on to higher grades, will be affected by the change.
Oriole Park is expecting an increase in enrolment next year but all of the classrooms it has are occupied. In recent years, the music class, computer lab, a multi-purpose classroom and the offices of the Aboriginal Family and School Frontline Program have all been converted into classrooms.
Aspen Heights has the space to accommodate the Stepping Stones class and currently has no special education classes where students are congregated together in one classroom, so the recommendation by school administration — accepted by the board this week — was to move the program there.
The Venture Middle School Program has been at G.H. Dawe Community School for nine years and offers programming for children with special needs between Grades 6 and 8.
There are 22 students in the program, seven of whom will move on to higher grades next year and won’t be affected by the change.
The Odyssey High School Program was started in 2004 at G.H. Dawe for Grade 9 students.
There are 15 students in the program, most of whom will not be affected by the change because most will move to Grade 10 next fall, Falk explained. The decision to move the program comes as the school division must give one classroom over to the city for use as part of the modernization of G.H. Dawe school and the G.H. Dawe Community Centre.
As part of the deal, the city received the old gymnasium and two classrooms and put money towards a new gymnasium and three classrooms for the school.
Falk said the changes mean no loss of staff. He said there will be some efficiencies — or cost savings — from an office operations, administrative and counselling perspective.
Falk said parents were notified that the changes would be brought before the board meeting on Monday and the district has not received any feedback from parents.
He said the board plans to schedule meetings in the next few weeks for parents who have children in each of the programs to advise them of the board’s decision.