STANTON — Instead of pulling special needs students out of the classroom, Central Montcalm staff came up with a different solution — putting caregivers into the classroom.
The Central Montcalm Public School Board of Education voted 5-0 at Wednesday night’s meeting to pilot a multi-age collaborative classroom, in which 25 kindergarten and first grade students will share a general education teacher and a special education teacher. Extra assistance, such as social workers, speech therapists, occupational therapists, behavior therapists and others will come to the classroom and work one-on-one or in small groups, assisting those who could benefit from the services.
“Instead of pulling students out of their classroom, we will put teachers in, who will then have extra time to spend with the students,” said Amy Meinhardt, special education coordinator/technology curriculum coordinator, “The students have been selected because they are not making expected growth. Research shows if the brain does not pick up certain skills now, at this age, it is going to be more difficult to develop those traits later, and they will be behind the rest of their lives.”
The idea developed as administration met with the kindergarten and first grade teachers, according to Meinhardt.
“We were hearing frustration at that level from teachers not being able to teach academics because of social and behavior issues that the teacher had to deal with among particular students,” she said.
School board members voiced concern Wednesday about how this approach would alleviate the number of students per classroom, students being labeled and tracked on a special education track and inclusion.
The multi-age collaborative class, along with multi-level traditional kindergarten/first grade mix of 26 students, would keep three other kindergarten class sizes to 25 or 26 students. Three other first grade classrooms would also have 25 or 26 students each, according to Meinhardt.
Krista King will serve as the general education teacher along with special education teacher Tammy Deacons in the unique multi-age collaborative class.
“I’m very excited about this,” Deacons said. “The kids will benefit from having additional assistance brought in, rather than taking the student out. Last year, when I worked with at-risk students, the student would often get pulled out of the classroom when the general education teacher was teaching a core subject. We will have scheduled into our every day schedule times when the speech therapist comes in, when the behavioral therapist comes in. It will be a part of our curriculum”
Meinhardt and the teachers will have a parent open house for the students selected for this classroom prior to the beginning of the school year.
In other business at Wednesday’s meeting, the school board voted to reinstate a high school male student who had served his required days of suspension due to possession of a controlled substance. The student will begin his junior year next month.