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Rapid City Schools to commission research on local special education

With the first semester closer to finished than started, the Rapid City Area School board took some time to assess. In the superintendent’s report, some challenging subjects once again returned to the floor.

When the school year gets rolling, the challenge of managing thousands of kids and their educators weighs heavily on administrators.

With the looming winter vacation offering a natural breaking point, RCAS superintendent Nicole Swigart came back to some of the challenges faced by the district this semester.

“We met with Marzano, which is the company you approved last board meeting to do a SPED review in our district," Swigart said. "We will be starting that work after the break.”

Special education regulations have been on the front of mind for a group of special needs parents who have lodged a complaint alleging current accommodations led to their children receiving less than the legally required minimum time requirements. Marzano Research was previously commissioned to assess educator pay for the state teachers compensation board.

Swigart said real steps are starting as soon as the next board meeting though.

“On Dec. 5, our next board meeting, you’re all aware we are still 18 special education teachers short," Swigart said. "So, we’re bringing a proposal to work with a company that has tele-teachers in special education that can help do some case management.”

Looking at the numbers, Rapid City Area Schools is by no means alone in needing more mental health services. Swigart said it’s something many of her peers are tangling with right now.

“Many of the other districts are having difficulty funding those programs with the money they’re getting from the state, and they wanted an opportunity to problem solve," Swigart said. "I felt very fortunate to be invited because when I was Title 1-D principal we got ahead of this. We established our process for funding these programs based on the number of students they have, not the number of students they can house.”

The program Swigart was a part of, Title 1, Part D, is the prevention and intervention program for children and youth who are neglected, delinquent, or at risk.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture