During the latest Tabernacle Township Board of Education meeting, a proposal to add a more inclusive preschool for special education students was presented.
Over the last few years, a lot of students have arrived in the district who have more significant needs than the district has seen in the past, according to Supervisor of Special Services Nanci Moore.
Over the past number of years, the district has had an integrative preschool program, an inclusion program for both general education and special education students.
The current inclusion program, which contains a wide variety of students’ needs, incorporates general education classes along with a more inclusive environment. Currently, everyone in the program is in one class.
Moore proposed to have two separate programs, one of which will focus on students with more needs while the other continues its current inclusion program for students who are higher functioning.
The integrated program would still be two half-day programs. However, Moore is proposing that, rather than have two teachers in that program, to instead separate them to have a self-contained full-day preschool and kindergarten program to meet the needs of those who may need more attention. According to her, the move would free up some spaces for the inclusion program for students that may be higher functioning and have fewer needs. She is proposing to have one teacher and one assistant in each program.
“That would allow us to have a larger array of placements for the students in order for us to meet their needs,” said Moore. “The past year or two has been pretty challenging meeting the needs of all of those students.”
The proposal comes with the support of Burlington County Supervisor of Child Study Kerri Tomasello. When Tomasello was invited to observe the class, she brainstormed with Moore, concluding that it would be a much better use of resources to have one teacher and one assistant per class.
Moore explained to the board that it has been challenging in recent years because the students’ needs vary so greatly. She explained that it would be beneficial to both students and staff to have a self-contained program.
The addition of a full-day program would allow students to progress with as much time as they need, according to Moore.
“It gives different arrangements and opportunities for them (students) for us to better meet their needs where they’re at,” said Moore.
According to BOE member Megan Jones, since the district currently only has one option for students, anyone who doesn’t fit into that option would need to be sent to a different program in a different district.
The move would allow the district to be prepared for an increase in special education student, which the district has seen in recent years. It also could possibly allow for out-of-district students to join Tabernacles, according to Moore.
Jones shared to the board that the move wouldn’t require a need for additional staffing and would come at no additional cost to the budget.
The proposal, if approved by the board, would begin in September. The board did not take any action on the proposal during the July 15 meeting.
The next Tabernacle BOE meeting will be held on Monday, Aug. 5, at 6 p.m. at the Kenneth R. Olson Middle School.