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updated: 7/13/2011 6:22 PM

District 207 dissolves special education co-op

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The Maine Township High School District 207 school board this week voted to dissolve a special education cooperative, which includes three feeder elementary districts, starting July 2012.

East Maine Elementary District 63 and Park Ridge-Niles District 64 already have moved to dissolve the cooperative, and Des Plaines Elementary District 62 school board is expected to vote Monday on the matter, District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace said.

District 207 has 39 students who receive occupational and physical therapy as well as vision services through the Maine Township Special Education Program, started in the early 1960s when special education students were not incorporated into mainstream classrooms the way they are today, Wallace said.

"It's been a program that over time has served the township pretty well," Wallace said. "The nature of special education has changed greatly in the five decades since MTSEP began."

District 207, which provides special education services to roughly 1,000 students districtwide, will have to find a way to also serve the MTSEP students' needs.

"At a minimum, the individual districts will be responsible for making sure that they have any services that MTSEP provided," Wallace said. "The districts are delivering 99 percent of services internally already."

The districts must still convince the Illinois State Board of Education that they can provide the services in-house. The state board likely will perform audits at the four schools and evaluate their individual plans for the students' transition.

Wallace said the four school districts have been considering dissolving the cooperative for a couple of years. The impending departure of the program's director and assistant director, both of whom are retiring at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, put the final nail in the coffin.

"It would be a natural thing to do when you have your two highest-ranking administrators retiring at the same time," Wallace said.

District 207 will need to hire a full-time special education director to replace Lynnette Williams, who spent half her time as MTSEP program director and half with the school district.

Wallace said the districts will look for opportunities to share resources through intergovernmental agreements, such as going out to bid together to get better pricing on busing services.

"We could still do some things cooperatively to help reduce some of the overall costs," he said.