Harford County, MD: Plan to stop outplacing SPED students

Aug 16, 2017, Baltimore Sun: More special needs classrooms is top Harford school construction priority More than $1 million worth of improvements to facilities for students with special needs is at the top of the priority list as Harford County Public Schools leaders develop their capital improvement program for the 2019 fiscal year. The classroom modifications are geared toward bringing more students with special needs back to schools in Harford County rather than having them in "non-public placement" programs outside the county, board members were told. By law, the local school system is required to pay for such placements, including the student's transportation. "Since we have, over the last three years, rebuilt our autism classroom we have been able to drastically cut our non-public schools [placement]," Susan Austin, director of special education, said. In 2015, for instance, the school board approved spending up to $250,000 to convert a section of Fallston High School to accommodate high school students with autism. The new facilities were part of a plan to expand the number of sites for instruction of autistic students. HCPS expects to serve 49 elementary students on the autism spectrum in the coming school year, along with 12 middle school students and about 12 high school students, Austin said. "Next year, with additional students entering, we will need more space for our elementary students and our secondary students," she said. Austin said 33 students identified as being on the autism spectrum are in non-public placement. The per-student cost ranges from about $76,000 to $238,000, she said.