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Changes Coming to Special Needs Programs

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MEDFORD, Ore. – Changes are coming in the next school year for students with special needs and their families.

Several local school districts will now begin offering special education services on their own, and cutting back on services provided by the Southern Oregon Education Service District. SOESD staffs the STEPS program for students with developmental disabilities, and hosts classes held at local schools. But as school districts take on more of those responsibilities, it will affect those classes.

STEPS classes in Medford put on by SOESD will now be held at Howard and Jacksonville elementary schools in 2014-15. Other classes will be provided by the Medford School District at various schools.

SOESD is also changing its own approach, putting students at similar ability levels in the same classrooms. All of the changes mean that some students will be attending classes at different schools, with different teachers, staff, and classmates.

“If there’s no transition process or that’s not happening, that makes it more difficult for that child to adapt to that classroom situation,” said Kimberly Larsen, Executive Director of Families for Community, whose son is in a STEPS-Plus class at Central Medford High School.

Larsen said parents should be given time to look over the new classroom and meet the new staff, and better help their children get acclimated to their new environments.

“Even typical children enjoy having the same teacher every day and having the same staff or same classroom,” she said. “So you can imagine what it’ll be like for children who run on routine or have certain expectations on specific people within their classroom.”

SOESD sent letters to parents on Thursday informing them of where their child will attend classes next year, and what type of class they will be in.