Special School District is celebrating its 60th year educating children with disabilities.
The Special School District was created in 1957, after a St. Louis County tax levy was passed to fund the program. The program began holding classes in 1958 and has provided general and technical education for the county ever since. SSD operates two technical schools: North Technical High School in Florissant, and South Technical High School in Sunset Hills. However, according to the SSD website website, over 97 percent of students receive SSD services in the 22 public school districts they serve.
While the SSD system might be unique, it was done with a specific goal in mind.
“The purpose was to have more availability of services,” Ellen Jacobs, who is in charge of SSD at the high school, said. Jacobs also said that, prior to the creation of SSD, individual districts weren’t able to hire specialists for certain disabilities. With the SSD’s implementation, schools had access to a variety of resources that can be used to help children meet their educational needs.
Currently, according to the SSD website, 23,097 students receive services from the SSD system as a whole. Those students’ needs are met through an Individual Education Plan, or IEP. Each student’s IEP is developed by a team consisting of the student, their guardian(s), a case manager who works for SSD, and the student’s general education teachers. This setup is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. IDEA states the minimum required services educators must provide for the country. It also provides funding for programs, like SSD, that educate children with disabilities.
While SSD provides many services for students, some changes still need to be made.
“With any organization, I feel there is room for improvement,” John M Thomas, special education liaison for Webster Groves School District, said.
“I would love to be able to provide a variety of classes,” Jacobs said. She wants to create classes that are a little more “out-of-the-box.” However, Jacobs said there is not enough staff to teach these classes.
SSD has played a part in thousands of children’s lives since 1958. In fact, according to their website, they currently provides services to one in six students in St. Louis County, and since SSD is funded primarily by the taxpayers, this assistance is likely to continue for years to come.
This is news editor Ethan Weihl’s first year on ECHO staff. He is excited to begin his work on the ECHO. He has not decided on college yet, but he wants to major in Political Science and Journalism.
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