Warren County Public Schools spends millions of local tax dollars each year on its special education program, which is supporting 2,416 students with disabilities – about 14 percent of the district’s overall enrollment.
“Ten million dollars out the general fund goes to support that program,” WCPS Board of Education Chairman Kerry Young said at the group’s regular meeting Monday. His comments came in response to a report from Michelle Blick, who directs the WCPS Special Education Department.
Blick’s presentation showed that more than half of those students, 1,675 to be exact, are between kindergarten and the eighth grade. From students with autism, developmental delays or those with visual impairments, the catch-all term “disability” can refer to a broad set of educational needs, she said.
Blick outlined a slew of support services the district offers, including a classroom at Plano Elementary School devoted to students with autism and a workforce transition program for students with disabilities.
Following the report, school board Vice Chairman Garry Chaffin said the program was another example of a service the district provides with too little funding from the state and federal government.
“That’s why we spend another $10 million. … That’s what it takes,” he said.
In other business, the completion of a $5.5 million auxiliary gymnasium at Greenwood High School is facing a delay of a few months as the district works to remediate two sinkholes that were discovered on the project site at the rear of the school, which first opened in 1990.
The school board discussed the “unforeseen obstacles” during their meeting and also heard updates on renovation and construction projects at Warren Central High School and the new Cumberland Trace Elementary School.
At Greenwood, workers have already remediated one sinkhole, an extensive process that requires digging down to the bedrock, WCPS Chief Financial Officer Chris McIntyre said. He added that old utility lines embedded in concrete will also need to be relocated.
Because of that, McIntyre anticipates that the gym will likely not be completed until fall break of the next school year. The plan is to have it ready for students before basketball season starts, he said.
Showcasing the progress at Warren Central, where extracurricular spaces are being overhauled, Sherman Carter Barnhart architect Justin McElfresh shared images of a freshly-stained gymnasium floor.
The new band and choral rooms are also progressing.
“Both of those spaces are very near completion now,” McElfresh said.
Workers are also making progress on the replacement for Cumberland Trace Elementary School, despite some unfortunate weather lately.
“They have been battling the weather,” McElfresh told the board. “The rain has not been kind to them.”
The new school is slated to open in August 2021.