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Hampshire Co, WV: SPED "state of emergency"; 20% of students have special needs

Nov 10, 2023, The 74: West Virginia Declares Emergency in Hampshire County Schools Special Ed

The district will be required to address a number of problems, including a lacking graduation rate for students in special education.

The West Virginia Board of Education declared a state of emergency in Hampshire County Schools special education program after nearly three years of shortcomings for vulnerable students.

The board’s decision, issued on Wednesday during their monthly meeting, requires the school district to address issues, including missing services, staffing and a lacking graduation rate for students in special education.

Hampshire County Schools serve 2,800 students. About 20% of students — or around one out of every five kids — have Individual Education Plans, or IEPs, that require special education services and staffing.
Alexandra Criner, director of the West Virginia Department of Education Office of Accountability, told school board members that the district needed ‘substantial intervention.”

The district often used a “one size fits all approach” for students in special education, she said, and students weren’t always placed in the most appropriate classroom settings.

Teachers and administrators across the district have expressed the need for help to address ongoing special education issues in eight schools, she noted, adding that one district employee supported 500 students with IEPs.

“Teachers [and] principals felt overwhelmed by the procedural aspect of special education,” Criner said.

Hampshire County Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Pancione did not respond to an interview request for this story.

There are special education shortcomings in multiple counties, according to state reviews, and the state is experiencing a special education employee shortage in the critical area.

Statewide, more than 45,000 students need special education services, according to the West Virginia Developmental Disabilities Council.

An October report from the WVDE showed that 14 counties, including Hampshire, needed assistance with their special education.

The WVDE Office of Accountability reported shortcomings in Hampshire County’s special education programs in 2021, 2022 and this year.

After the school district failed to make improvements, the office conducted a special circumstance review of the school district in September. The WVDE Office of Accountability reviewed a random sample of dozens of special education students’ files.

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