WCSD talks Physical and Occupational Therapists

Sometimes, cutting the budget requires adding staff.

In a time when Warren County School District’s staff is shrinking each year, the school board’s personnel committee discussed hiring two therapists.

According to administrators, having a physical therapist and an occupational therapist in-house would provide better services to district students while saving dollars.

“Right now we contact for these services through IU5,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “It would be less expensive for us to employ them ourselves, if we can get them.”

The district is sharing those therapists under the current agreement. Director of Pupil Services Dr. Patricia Hawley said the contract calls for three days of occupational therapy services and three-and-a-half days of physical therapy.

Hawley said 96 district students currently receive occupational therapy services and 36 receive physical therapy.

A majority of the students in both are eligible for Medical Assistance. Because it is contracting for the services, the district may not bill Medical Assistance. That would change — to the financial gain of the district — if the district were to hire therapists.

Those therapists would provide services to students in all of the district’s buildings.

According to Hawley’s annual Special Education Report Card, there are 877 special education students in the district.

The district employs 50 special education teachers — for a ratio of 17.5 students to one teacher — six school psychologists, one school social worker, one assistive technology teacher, one-half-time hearing-impaired teacher, and seven speech language pathologists. The IU provides one physical therapist, two occupational therapists, and vision support.

According to the document presented by Hawley, the district special education enrollment, by percentage, has been growing since 2014 and exceeded 20 percent (20.3 percent) for the first time in 2018.

“We are making great strides as far as increasing services,” Hawley said. “We implemented activities of daily living — the essential skills that you as a human being do every day.”

“We made a diligent effort to truly expand community based instruction,” she said.

The staff has undergone further training in least restrictive environment.

Moving forward, the department will focus on continuing to expand community-based instruction, further developing the K-12 life-skills curriculum, offering professional development regarding executive functioning, looking into school therapy dog services, and continuing to work with parents on special education topics.