By Jacqueline Durett
EDISON — With a greater-than-anticipated overall enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year, the district has also had higher than anticipated increases in costs for special education services, according to Business Administrator Daniel Michaud.
At a Nov. 16 Board of Education meeting, Michaud said many of the 700-plus new students in the district this year require special education services, and the combined costs have necessitated him appropriating $1.225 million in extraordinary aid to cover costs related to the influx of students who require special education.
That figure is made up of $500,000 in out-of-district tuition, an additional $125,000 for one residential placement (the total cost for the one placement is $254,000), and $600,000 in transportation related to special education.
In regard to the last figure, Michaud said many of the schools that the students need to be transported to are far away, and some of those routes cost the district $40,000 to $50,000 each, and sometimes those routes accommodate just one or two students. However, he added when possible, the district does partner with another district to lower the costs.
Board member Shivi Prasad-Madhukar asked if the increase in enrollment had generated more transportation aid from the state.
Michaud said district would receive an increase, but that increase would be provided next school year. “It doesn’t affect this year at all,” he said.
Board member Deborah Anes asked whether the district would save money in providing a dedicated driver to the student needing $254,000 in services. Michaud said the student is living at a facility out of state, and the district tried to source a closer and less expensive facility, but the parents would need to agree to have the student placed elsewhere. He also said that because it’s a residential placement, transportation may not be a significant cost in that particular case.
“I’m not looking to change anything but the expense,” Anes said.
Michaud also said he anticipated receiving some reimbursement from the state of the costs outlaid for the student, since the district’s costs exceeded $55,000.
In-district transportation costs for students who do not need special education services may go up in before the school year is over as well, Michaud said. Two of the district’s buses just went over the 54-student maximum, which means two new routes need to be created, which could cost $30,000 to $40,000. He said he cannot legally overcrowd a bus
Board member Jerry Shi asked if the two new bus routes could pick up more than just a handful of students and include some students who are not entitled to busing because they live too close to the school. Through subscription busing, families who want their children to take a bus instead of walking or being driven can opt to pay $500 per student if a bus is available.
Michaud said there is a waiting list for subscription busing, and that if the new buses go through an area where they can pick up those students, the district will notify parents accordingly.