Lynn, MA: SPED numbers continue to soar; 'the biggest issue is...huge number of 3 and 4 yr olds'

June 12, 2018, Lynn (MA) Daily Item: Lynn is running out of pre-K seats for students with special education An increasing amount of special education referrals is making it more difficult for school officials to find space to service children in the Lynn Public Schools pre-kindergarten program. “The biggest issue is that we do have a huge number of 3 and 4 year olds coming to us to be evaluated for preschool,” said Lynn Catarius, administrator of special education. “The majority are eligible for special education. We really are needing space for that.” Two years ago, there were 250 special education referrals for pre-K and this year, there have been 400 — of those 400 who were referred, there were 245 kids that did register. Each month, Catarius said they get about 40 referrals. Catarius said there have been two pre-K neighborhood classrooms at Harrington and Connery Elementary schools that were servicing only typically developing 4 year olds. But she said there are so many students coming that have been identified as having special needs that a request was made to change those classrooms to be integrated to include special education students…. Projections for next school year is that there will be 127 special education slots available and 160 regular education slots. Who fills the regular education slots is determined by a lottery, Catarius said. … “This is definitely something that keeps me up at night,” Catarius said. “The number of students at very young ages that are being referred and having some significant delays is very concerning. How do we meet their needs and continue to be fiscally responsible in the district?”… Latham said school officials are restricted by space and resources. She said they can expect another 400 referrals next year — she’s looked in her crystal ball and no rooms are going to appear in September. “It’s a crisis and we have to service these children,” Latham said.