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Hawthorn, IL: District expands autism services, new autism support teacher, 8 paras

NEW BETHLEHEM and HAWTHORN – When school bells ring on Wednesday, Aug. 23, signaling the first day of school, students in the three Redbank Valley School District buildings will be met with both familiarity and change as they begin the 2023-24 school year.

While things within the schools may look much the same on the outside as in previous years, district officials at both the elementary and high school levels are excited for the start of the new year with changes at the primary, intermediate and high schools....

Additionally, at the Intermediate School, Sarah King will be joining the special education department as the autism support teacher, while Jennifer Arbuckle was hired as a social worker for both elementary buildings.

“She will work alongside the school counselor, the behavior specialist and myself to ensure our students and families are receiving all of the support they need,” Shirey said of Arbuckle….

New paraprofessionals include Trista Truitt, Michael Shaffer, Angie Minich and Janet Yarger at the intermediate school, and Deb Green at the high school. Olivia Daugherty will be joining the cafeteria staff at the Intermediate School, while Sandy Orf and Nancy McCauley were hired as custodians at the intermediate and high schools respectively.

After housing two autism support classrooms — one at the high school and one at the intermediate school — for the Intermediate Unit during the 2022-23 school year, Rupp said that Redbank will bring the classrooms in-house for the upcoming school year.

“All of the students but two were students from Redbank Valley,” the superintendent said of the IU classrooms, noting that contracting with the IU meant the district had to pay a per student rate for each student.

“In order to save fees associated with speech and per pupil costs, we decided to take over the classrooms by hiring teachers and utilizing our general education classrooms, as well as speech services,” she continued. “We have enough Redbank Valley students to support the program, and also partner with other districts to send students to our classrooms.”…

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