Jimmi Lou Irvine, Associate Superintendent with the Northern Lights Public Schools Board (NLPS), reviewed the annual Inclusive Education Summary with trustees at the recent NLPS Board meeting
On December 10, Irvine noted that while more checks and balances have been put in place to ensure the right assessments are in place for students, the number of students requiring inclusive education services has been increasing over the last couple of years.
“There are currently 330 students identified as having severe disabilities, 615 students identified as having mild-moderate disabilities, and a total of 1,613 students who have individual program plans (IPP’s) or behaviour support plans (BSP’s) in place,” Irvine said in the meeting. “Over 25 per cent of NLPS students have been identified as requiring support.”
Irvine says the NLPS has renamed its PUF program for preschool-aged children as Little Lights and has done a lot of work over the last year to make changes to the program to better meet the needs of students.
“NLPS is given a set amount of funding for this program that is based on a historic profile,” Irvine said. “The amount is not adjusted based on actual enrolment in the program.”
Irvine says funding has been reduced to almost one-third of what it was previously and the division is having to stretch that funding to serve more students. Irvine noted that while pre-Kindergarten enrolments decreased last year due to COVID, those numbers have increased this year, along with Kindergarten enrolments.
“The division currently has 440 students enrolled in Kindergarten and received funding for intervention for 65 students,” Irvine said.
The division has created a Health Pathways team (speech language pathologists, occupational therapists as well as assistants in both disciplines) to provide services to students.
“Caseloads have increased exponentially since Alberta Health Services restricted service to students in these areas,” Irvine said. “Current caseloads include 460 speech language pathology and 158 occupational therapy cases.”
Irvine says this has been challenging, particularly as it is difficult to recruit and retain staff that have the appropriate credentials.
“Universal services are being offered at all schools to support the high caseload numbers and assist with meeting needs in classrooms,” Irvine said.