Alexander County Schools has extensive programs to meet the needs of students with disabilities. On April 1, 2021, ACS was serving 780 students ages 3-21 who were identified as having special needs. About 16.9% of school aged and preschool aged children are identified. Services for students with disabilities range from minor classroom and/or therapy supports to extensive full time programs. Services are based on Individualized Education Plans (IEP) which are developed jointly by parents and school staff at least annually and outline needed services as well as any accommodations and/or modifications required in the general education class and for testing. All students are expected to progress in the general curriculum and all students must be included in any state evaluations used for student or school accountability purposes.
Services are provided by approximately 80 staff members including special education teachers, special education teacher assistants, speech pathologists and assistants, a hearing impaired teacher, visually impaired teacher, occupational and physical therapists and therapy assistants, an interpreter, a language facilitator, and lead staff that includes an EC Program Director, Program Specialists, School Psychologists, a Behavior Specialist, a Data Manager and a Budget Manager/Administrative Assistant.
In addition, ACS has community based instructional services for specific high school students with disabilities where they can learn job skills directly in community sites and work towards a High School Certificate or a High School Diploma through the Occupational Course of Study. Alexander Central High School and OCS have teamed up to provide new opportunities for our students with special needs.
All students in ACS who have identified disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. Each student who qualifies for Exceptional Children's services receives an Individualized Education Plan that is specifically tailored to their areas of need. This provides important information for individuals who work with and teach that student. To discuss or make a complaint about services rendered, a parent can call Teresa King, Dispute Resolution Consultant at NCDPI at 984-236-2573.
If parents suspect that their child may have a disability, they are encouraged to discuss their concerns with the child's teacher(s). They may also request consideration for referral for evaluation from their principal or counselor or they may call the special education department at central office (828-632-7001). For preschool students, parents with concerns should call the special education department at central office and speak with the Preschool Coordinator.
Special Education Law requires that the first consideration for placement of students is the least restrictive environment (LRE). Thus the first consideration for any student with special needs is placement in the general education classroom or, for a preschool student, in a natural preschool setting. ACS's commitment to inclusive practices means that we work hard to team with general education to provide the supports and instruction needed to maintain students in the general education or natural environments as much as possible.
Inclusion means students with and without disabilities working side by side. As opposed to mainstreaming where students are placed back into general education classes without support, inclusion involves the addition of special education and related services to the general program whereby students with and without disabilities benefit from the resultant team of educators.
ELIGIBILITY FOR SPECIAL SERVICES
The Public Schools of North Carolina, Exceptional Children Division provides local units with detailed procedures for the delivery of special education services. These rules and regulations are detailed in Policies Governing Services for Children With Disabilities Department of Public Instruction, amended March 2021. Services are provided under the following categorical designations: Autism, Deaf-Blindness, Deafness, Developmental Delay, Emotional Disability, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Visual Impairment.