In an overhaul slated to take until 2006, the Los Angeles Unified School District will begin integrating its 35,000 special-needs students into regular-education classes and moving toward the elimination of special-needs-only schools and buses. District officials stress that this will be a gradual process involving many challenges.
According to the Los Angeles Times, only 18 percent of L.A. Unified’s disabled students attended regular classes last year. That’s less than half the average integration rate for U.S. districts. Under the integration plan, the district’s 16 special-education centers and most of its other schools would be required to maintain a disabled student population of between 7 and 17 percent of total school enrollment.
The details of the transition, which will cost millions of dollars in new facilities and staff training, have yet to be ironed out. “We’re in the planning and implementation stage. But we don’t have all the answers,” said superintendent Roy Romer.
District officials couldn’t comment on the impact of integration on student transportation, other than to say that it will happen gradually, with changes being made on an individual basis, as students’ IEPs evolve. The number of students transported could increase or decrease in any given area of the district, depending on where students are placed.