DCSD Explores Creation of Special Education School
CASTLE ROCK - The Douglas County School District is looking to create a school specifically designed to meet the needs of K-8 students entitled to special education services.
Currently, DCSD’s Plum Creek Academy offers a successful special education program for high school students. DCSD is looking to replicate the Plum Creek Academy model at the K-8 level. The school would serve elementary and middle school students, while decreasing the time needed to transition back to their neighborhood schools.
“The separate school model is returning students back to a less restrictive environment, or back to their neighborhood schools, significantly quicker than the school within a school model,” said Jason Germain, DCSD Chief Student Advocacy Officer.
Currently, K-8 students who receive special education services through their neighborhood schools have access to exceptional universal and targeted programming. The new K-8 school would serve students who require the most intensive services and with a broader range of education disabilities than the current school within a school intensive model.
The new school would also eliminate the need to transport students who require intensive services to facilities located out of the district, as it would expand the current continuum of services.
“Out of district programming is primary focused on treatment,” said Germain. “What we’ve developed in Douglas County is a model that allows us to provide intensive treatment, while maintaining a high level of academic support that is in line with what their same-age peers are receiving.”
There are several advantages to creating this new learning environment:
• Provides more effective, intensive, and individualized services to students in a focused setting
• Adds programming that currently does not exist for students entitled to special education services who experience cognitive impairments with co-occurring emotional and behavioral concerns
• Provides environmental accommodations that enhance safety for students
• Offers greater efficiency/utilization of existing staff associated with the current model
• Provides increased capacity to respond to growth/demand
• Improves ﬁdelity of programming implementation to afford students the opportunity to return to a less restrictive environment more quickly
If created, the new school would free up 11 classrooms at various neighborhood schools to address student growth and accommodate early childhood programs. Space at the new school could also house the Highlands Ranch Bridge program and/or child-find programs, which would eliminate the cost associated with leased space. Overall, this new school would provide many programmatic advantages for the students it serves.