Spec. ed director looks at other locations

Two classrooms would work for CLASS program

Staff reporter

Marion County Special Education Cooperative Director Chris Cezar took the first steps in moving one of the special education programs from the Florence facility.

During Monday's special education cooperative board meeting, Cezar said he, an architect, and consultant Kent Stewart, looked at classrooms at Peabody Elementary School and Marion High School.

At previous meetings the board had discussed the possibility of moving the CLASS program for physically and mentally handicapped students to another facility. Peabody-Burns USD 398 Superintendent Rex Watson offered a classroom at Peabody-Burns Elementary School for the program. The classroom would be available next year.

Another classroom in the Hill School on the MHS campus also is being considered. However, Marion USD 408 board members would have to approve the use which will be discussed at their December meeting.

Cezar said either classroom at Peabody or Marion was workable, however, the space at Marion would be less expensive for remodeling costs to accommodate the students.

Special education board president and USD 398 representative Doe Ann Hague asked if students would have to go outdoors to go to the lunch room. Cezar said they would but it was only about 100 feet on a sidewalk. Hague said she had always been in favor of the CLASS students being in Marion but prefers them not having to go out in the weather for their meals.

Cezar told the board that ideally the CLASS students should be in the appropriate buildings for their age groups and wanted to make sure that goal is kept in mind with future decisions.

It was decided that the special education co-op board should tour both facilities before making a decision following the approval of the use by USD 408 board members.

Cezar then reported that he, an architect, and Stewart had met regarding the necessary space for the OASIS program. An architect is putting together a plan to show the ideal space needed for the program.

It was explained that the architect's plan would be helpful in knowing the kind of space required even if a new building isn't constructed.

The architect also will provide cost estimates for remodeling spaces at Peabody and Marion for the CLASS program.

Marion USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker told the cooperative board that the Marion-Florence board had decided not to change the amount of the lease or commitment date because the buildings soon will be deeded to the City of Florence. The land survey also had been completed which was one of the delays in the property transfer.

Hague again asked for the amount of money that remained unused for building maintenance. Special education board member and USD 408 representative Lyle Leppke said it didn't make a lot of difference what the district had spent because the roof needed to be replaced on the gymnasium. Hague said she was asking because the lease payments are to be used on the buildings.

When the ownership transfers to the city, the city will receive whatever lease money is available from lease payments. However, the city will not be obligated to reserve the lease money for maintenance and repairs, Hague said.

"If there is money available for the facility, let's put it into the facility instead of holding it all for the roof," she said.

Leiker and Cezar previously had discussed repairing the parking lot that is used for CLASS students. Hague said she also was concerned about the wiring in the art room. The special education board was encouraged to submit maintenance requests to the school district so they can be addressed.

Goessel USD 411 Superintendent John Fast suggested the maintenance money given to the City of Florence be set aside in an escrow account which only could be used for maintenance and not be a part of the city's general budget.

"From what I understand, Florence does want to keep us here," Hillsboro USD 410 representative Deb Geis said. "If there's something we want, we need to ask."

Earlier in the meeting, Hague had mentioned that the students at Florence were reading older books and that the library was inadequate. Leiker asked why the board hadn't purchased any new books. Hague said funds continue to be cut which makes it difficult to make those kinds of purchases.

Cezar clarified that some OASIS students had access to new books as part of the incentive program for good behavior.

In other business:

— Geis was appointed as chief negotiator for the special education board.

— A contract with Don Hodson of Marion Family Physicians, was approved to provide prescriptions to students who are Medicaid recipients. Hodson will be paid $20 per student and will go to each school as needed.

— The board will work on director evaluations. Cezar will provide a self-evaluation which can be used by board members in assessing his performance. Hague then will compile the information and the board will present the results to Cezar at a future board meeting.

— Cezar informed the board about autism as part of the student learning segment of the board meeting. There are seven students in Marion County who have been diagnosed with some sort of autism.

He said early diagnosis is critical and about 50 percent of children diagnosed with autism are done so by their third birthdays.

Special education staff continue to look at the best methods to teach these students which is difficult because those students have unique characteristics.