Apr 15, 2023, WJLA, Arlington, VA: Loudoun County School Board spends $11M on new bathroom design, cuts special ed funds https://wjla.com/amp/news/local/loudoun-county-school-board-virginia-bathroom-design-cuts-special-education-funding-new-hires-11-million-dollars-tiffany-polifko-ian-serotkin-abbie-platt-lcps-safety-funds-mental-health-services
Over the last three weeks, Loudoun County special education teachers have persistently asked the Loudoun County School Board to hire more special education teachers, teaching assistants and speech-language pathologists (SLP).
“Language needs are increasing,” one educator said at a school board meeting.
“We are indeed not overstaffed but grossly understaffed,” another educator said at a school board meeting. “Do you all know that SLPs, we don't get subs? We take a sick day or a personal day, there's no one to cover for us.”
“Please do not exclude special education students in your plan for excellence,” another educator said at a school board meeting.
Instead, the school board is cutting three speech pathologists, one special education supervisor, three occupational therapists and fourteen teachers, according to an LCPS spokesperson. The LCPS spokesperson added that the school district is adding 13 teaching assistants, which would be a net decrease of eight positions….
The Loudoun County School Board spends $11 million on a new bathroom design while special education teachers plea for more hires.
Polifko works in the special education field and she’s hearing concerns that the school board is set to fund more administrative positions with special education grant funding rather than use it for hiring staff who work directly with students.
“If those funds are being funneled into coordinator positions or supervisory positions or financial analyst positions, as they are outlined to do in this plan, the concern of the Special Education Advisory Committee is why aren't those funds being transferred directly to the boots on the ground?” asked Polifko, who said the school board will approve the allocation of federal FAPE grant funding this month. “And this is not just a concern of the people that make up that committee. We have staff who are working very hard with our children every day, who say, we don't have enough resources. We don't have enough manpower.”
A Loudoun County Public Schools spokesperson said LCPS has more than the staffing standard requirement for speech pathologists.
“Specifically, LCPS had 10 more speech pathologists than the staffing standard required,” the LCPS spokesperson told 7News.
The LCPS spokesperson added the three speech pathologist positions that will be unfunded are currently vacant positions.
The Loudoun County School Board Chair told 7News it has been challenging for the district to hire speech pathologists.
“The Board recognizes the difficulty in hiring speech pathologists, evidenced by the nearly three full-time positions being vacant for the last year,” Loudoun County School Board Chair Ian Serotkin told 7News in a statement. “Because of this, we wanted to not only continue to provide this important resource with above-staffing standard service to our students but retain these dedicated and hard-working employees as well.”
The call for additional special education investments and resources comes as Loudoun County Public Schools is allocating funding elsewhere, including $11 million for new bathroom designs at two high schools.
“I simply cannot understand why we would justify funds to allow boys and girls to co-mingle in the bathroom and not consider the unintended consequences there while also turning our cheek and looking the other way,” Polifko said.
The Loudoun County School Board is considering floor-to-ceiling bathroom stalls with shared sink areas for all school bathrooms. This would be in place of all gender-separated bathrooms. LCPS is also considering building private bathrooms in schools, in addition to keeping gender-separated bathrooms to accommodate transgender and nonbinary students….