San Dieguito district forms special education task force

In response to feedback received at a July 28 tour of the Adult Transition Program (ATP) facilities, the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) informed parents on Aug. 1 that the entire program will be moved to La Costa Canyon High School from the Earl Warren campus for the coming school year.

In an Aug. 1 letter to parents, SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill apologized again for “the disappointment and frustration many of you have shared with us” regarding housing the program for special education students ages 18 to 22 in two portable classrooms that parents believed were unequal facilities to the new Earl Warren campus.

“My hope is that this message will provide more certainty for our families as we work collaboratively to establish a trusting and productive relationship and to support our students’ success,” Dill wrote.

One alternative presented on July 28 had been to split the program between the Earl Warren portables and one room at La Costa Canyon (LCC). At parents’ urging, the district identified three classrooms at La Costa Canyon for the ATP program to use; three general purpose classrooms, connected by a workroom, and next to two accessible restrooms. Dill said there are some trade-offs with the LCC location, as it is in Carlsbad so it is not as centrally located as Earl Warren in Solana Beach, and there is little public transportation and fewer community amenities.

“We believe this satisfies three of the frequent requests we heard on Friday (July 28) – move the program away from a middle school, place the program in permanent classrooms, and keep the students together,” Dill said.

Long-term plans include the construction of a permanent home for ATP, possibly at the Sunset High School campus in Encinitas or bringing the program to a community college such as MiraCosta.

On Aug. 2, the district held a special meeting to establish a special education task force, which was one of the suggestions that came out of the meeting on July 28.

“This is a great first step forward to working with our community in special education and otherwise and I’m really happy to see this being formed” said SDUHSD Board President Amy Herman.

ATP parent Lucile Lynch thanked the district for holding the tour and meeting, acknowledging that it was at times very emotional but the response from the district was intelligent and positive.

“It’s very exciting to have the task force,” Lynch said. “I think it’s really an opportunity to make this program one of the best, just like our other programs in the district. I want to thank everybody for considering this, listening to us and moving forward.”

The task force will include representation from special education parents and educators, as well as a rotating school board member. According to Dill, the purpose of the task force will be to engage in a long-term strategic planning process for special education services. The group will come together through a series of formally agendized and publicly-noticed meetings to work through a series of topics over the course of the school year. The task force will come up with recommendations for the board to consider for the 2018-19 school year.

Some of the topics to be discussed will include alignment of curriculum with California standards, post-secondary transition, parent outreach and engagement, career pathways and electives, community partnerships and engagement, professional development for certificated and classified staff, developing independence, equity and inclusion, and facilities issues.

“The task force will review and make recommendations regarding facilities for our specialized programs to ensure a cohesive long-term facilities plan for these programs,” Dill wrote. “As part of this, the task force will evaluate and recommend options for permanent placement of the ATP classrooms.”

The board will be holding a special education workshop before its next meeting on Aug. 17.

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