Schools see more students with intensive needs

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will receive $1.2 million more from the state than originally estimated for the current school year.

Unexpected enrollment increases in the Connections Home School Program and number of intensive needs students floated the extra funding.

“Students who qualify for intensive needs funding require more assistance,” said school district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff.

“For example, in addition to special transportation, and daily instruction by a teacher endorsed in special education, students may need services from a related service provider, and an aide to work one-on-one with them at least part of the time or all day.”

There is a variety of reasons a student could qualify as having more intensive needs in the school district, including blindness or deafness, Erkeneff said.

In the state-required 20-Day OASIS (Online Alaska School Information System) taken in fall of 2015, 162 students with intensive needs were projected to enroll this year, but 182 were verified by the state.

The numbers of students who qualify has been increasing in the school district in recent years, said Laurie Olson, school district director of finance.

Last year there were 16 more students enrolled in the school district than were projected by the state-required 20-Day OASIS the year prior. That meant an additional $2.1 million from the state at the time, which reduced the school district’s deficit.

A student who qualifies as having intensive needs students receive 13 times more funding from the state than a student who does not have the same qualification.

At a Board of Education worksession Feb. 1, Superintendent of Instruction Sean Dusek said he wasn’t sure that was even enough to provide a proper education to students with intensive needs.

The Department of Early Education and Development requires a group of professionals and the student’s parents or parent decide if a child is eligible for intensive needs assistance.

Not only students with disabilities will qualify. Alaska statute lists 14 categories including learning disabilities, autism, emotional disturbance and traumatic brain injuries that an eligible student would fall under.

Kelly Sullivan is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. She can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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