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Special education

PRINCETON — Public and private school administrators and a few parents got together Friday for a “Timely and Meaningful Consultation.”

Students who attend private and home schools are entitled to special services provided by the federal government, and the annual consultation is necessary to make sure all of the students are covered.

Gwen Garver, Bureau-Marshall-Putnam director of special education, said federal law requires local school districts to provide services for private school and home schooled students. As part of the process, each local school district must consult with representatives of the private schools.

“This is what we’re doing today,” she said.

Attending the meeting were representatives of the Princeton Elementary District and Princeton Christian Academy and St. Louis School, which are both in the PES district; and Hall High School and St. Bede Academy, which is in the Hall district. There were also two parents in attendance.

Garver said the services must be provided by the public school in the district where the child attends, which is not necessarily the child’s home district. For example, St. Bede has students from many communities.

“You have students, I know, who come from LaSalle, Peru, Spring Valley, Mendota, probably Tonica,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter where their parents reside, it’s where they’re going to school.”

So Hall is responsible for providing services for any eligible St. Bede student.

Garver said each local school district must conduct “child find” to identify students with disabilities in any of 13 categories, which range from learning disabilities to vision, hearing, physical and emotional problems, to autism and traumatic brain injury. Child find is designed to make sure students with disabilities are identified, located and evaluated, and a method of providing services created.

While a public school must provide services, they are not expected to provide the same full range of services to a private or home-schooled student.

“In the private school world, we have this fund limitation that we have to work under,” Garver said. “In the public schools, the obligation is higher, and the cost is not the determining factor in services.”

The amount of financial aid available for private and home school students is determined by the base year, total public and non-public enrollment and poverty. The amount of federal money available for the 2012-13 school year is just under $18,000.

Should parents wish to access a greater level of support for their children than is offered, they may choose to enroll their children in the public school for a minimum of regular, part-time attendance during the school day.

“So parents, if you don’t feel your child is getting the level of services you need, you can still enroll them in their school of residence,” Garver said.

Garver said the number of private and home school students receiving services changes almost every day. Currently there are 11 students receiving services, 10 in the three private schools and one home-schooled student. The home-schooled student receives services at an agreed upon location.

Garver said there is no law requiring home-school parents to inform the public school about their children’s needs. However, parents can identify their children for consideration if they want to receive services.

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