The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Danville News

May 28, 2014

Danville schools to add autistic support classroom

DANVILLE — Four incoming autistic students have led to the school board approving a new, district-run support classroom that is expected to save the district about $20,000.

The creation of the new autistic support class, which will be at the Danville Primary School at the start of the 2014-2015 school year, came at the recommendation of Jill Shupp, special education director for Danville’s school district.

The district will start advertising today for two positions for the classroom, a teacher and a paraprofessional, according to Cheryl Latorre, superintendent for Danville.

Normally, autistic students are taught at classrooms operated by Danville’s Intermediate Unit. While those classrooms will remain, the district decided they wanted the four incoming students “to start in a Danville program and stay in a Danville program,” Latorre said.

Four new autistic students is an unusually high number for a new school year, Shupp told the board.

The number of district students with autism continues to increase and this is “the perfect time to develop a program” within the district, Latorre said.

Keeping the program in district would cost less money than sending them through the IU, Shupp said. Sending one student out through the IU costs about $30,000, and sending four would cost approximately $120,000, she said.

The price of a teacher, paraprofessional and classroom materials would only be about $100,000.

The new classroom has space for four more students, and parents from Danville and other districts can choose to send their autistic students to that class if they wish. Families from other districts who send their children to Danville’s classroom could lead to more revenue for Danville, Shupp said.

“We have a potential revenue of another $120,000,” she said.

Students in IU programs could also end up at autistic classrooms in other school districts.

“This will keep the kids here with their peers,” Latorre said.

Danville’s development of its own autistic classroom would have occurred sooner but had been moved to the backburner due to Shupp’s recent pregnancy, Latorre said.

Email comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.

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