By Kathleen Flynn
MAISD associate superintendent for special education
Every Child, Every School
This is part two in a four-part informational series about a special education millage being requested by the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District. Voters will be asked to decide whether to approve the millage request on May 6.
• March 15: MAISD begins campaign to raise awareness about upcoming special education millage vote.
• March 22: Special Education: From early on to high school … one student’s story.
• Today: A look at what special education programs and services are available in Montcalm County.
• April 5: Transition: Special education adults plan for life after school.
Assisting students to make progress in the general curriculum is the role of every school educator, including special education staff.
In Montcalm County, the local school districts, as well as the Montcalm Area Intermediate School District (MAISD), employ many staff who provide programs and services to children beginning at birth and ending at 26 years of age. Throughout Montcalm County schools, more than 1,700 students are receiving special education services.
The provision of special education programs and services can be divided into two categories — those offered by local school districts and those offered throughout the MAISD at the Seiter Education Center in Greenville or classrooms within the local school districts.
At local districts, there are many supports, including classroom programs and ancillary services. Those supports, in the form of classroom programs, include early childhood special education programs, resource rooms and classrooms for students with mild cognitive impairments. Special education services, such as speech and language pathologists and school social workers, are also available through each local school district.
At the Montcalm County level, there is also a variety of supports for students with special needs. Beginning at birth, Early On and Parent Child Learning Group staff visit homes and offer playgroups to children and families up to 3 years of age. For children 3 to 6 years of age, the Little People Land Early Childhood Special Education Program provides a preschool classroom.
The Seiter Education Center in Greenville is a separate school for students with special needs. This school provides programs for students with the most significant special needs.
For students from kindergarten to 12th grade, the MAISD has classrooms within the Greenville and Central Montcalm school districts for students with autism, moderate cognitive impairments, emotional impairments and hearing impairments. The MAISD also hosts a community based vocational and community living program called, Transition Plus Hometown Stanton for students with moderate cognitive impairments from 18 to 26 years of age.
In addition to offering specific programs, the MAISD also employs many staff that provide services to assist students to make progress in the general curriculum. School nurses, school psychologists, teacher consultants (including those for students with autism, visual impairment, orientation and mobility needs), speech and language pathologists, school social workers, occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, physical therapists, physical therapy assistants and a transition coordinator help local district meet student needs.
The MAISD also offers special education transportation to each school within the county. Each day, MAISD buses travel more than 1,600 miles. That distance is equivalent to one bus driving from Greenville to El Paso, Texas. Many different types of equipment are used on the special needs buses. Each bus is equipped with a bus lift, wheelchair tie-downs, individual student seatbelts and integrated car seats. A fully equipped bus costs $140,000.
On May 6, each resident of a Montcalm County school district will be asked to vote on a proposed special education millage. Millage funds will support each of the programs and services described in this article. Additional millage funds will allow school districts to provide programming for general and special education students.
When special education is properly funded, general education programs benefit because they do not have to supplement the cost of special education. Every school, every child, vote.
For additional information, visit www.montcalmkids.org online or search for “Montcalm Kids” on Facebook and Twitter.