2018-08-23 / Community News

Collaborative formed for special ed students

A funding crisis and broken delivery model prompted the Department of Health and Human Services to recommend shifting Child Development Services special education services for 3- to 5-year-olds from the state to local school districts, according to a press release issued by the Biddeford School Department. Statewide, there are 2,068 3- to 5-year-old students with special education needs.

Biddeford School Department was awarded a $513,000 grant to voluntarily form the Southern Maine Administrative Collaborative. The collaborative is an independent organization with representation from the school districts in its catchment area. With a focus on early intervention, the collaborative is preparing to provide services and support to children ages 3 through 5, including inhouse speech therapy and transportation to other providers.

The Southern Maine Administrative Collaborative will host an informational night for local service providers to share more information 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16 at Biscuits & Company in Biddeford.

“We believe that we can and should serve all students. We believe there is value in getting to know students and their families at a very young age, to assist in developing and executing individualized education plans and interventions that might carry through elementary grades,” said director of special education and collaborative participant Jen Normand, in a press release. “We believe that early intervention can have two seemingly disparate yet congruous yields: increased student achievement and increased efficiency.”

Child Development Services maintains nearly 300 contracts with providers, including 100 for speech and language services, 62 for occupational therapy, 39 for physical therapy, 13 for transportation and 120 contracts for services such as psychologists, interpreters and behavior analysts.

“Our school department currently offers those services to special education students; as the school district with the highest share of special education students in York County (nearly 500 total), many of the pieces of the puzzle are in place,” said Executive Director Jeremy Ray, and Biddeford superintendent. “We believe that moving to a schoolbased model makes sense, as school departments could deliver myriad services more cost effectively by lowering overhead and gaining efficiencies with built-in expertise from specialists who serve students with unique and pressing needs. In addition, our transportation infrastructure has capacity to absorb 3- to 5-year-old students; transportation cost overruns are a perennial strain on CDS’s budget.”

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