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District drafts special needs rules

Guidelines that address tuition-paying students, including those with special needs, are in the works in the Lake Oswego School District Office of Special Services.

Patrick Tomblin, special services director, and Andrea Hungerford, special services attorney, presented the draft to the school board Monday.

The district - which is marketing itself to homeschooled, privately schooled and out-of-district students - is establishing the guidelines for future use. They are similar to those drawn up by private and charter schools, Tomblin said.

The board is expected to make changes to the guidelines or vote to accept them in January.

If the board approves the new guidelines - which include a revamped application - students from outside the district who require additional services at school must pay any costs that exceed the $6,500 tuition price tag.

For example, the requirement could apply to a student who requires a full-time nurse or one-on-one educational assistant or a student who must be placed in a small, specialized classroom with aides as part of their educational plan.

'The range of things a student could need in special services is really broad,' said Superintendent Bill Korach.

According to Tomblin, those costs could exceed $20,000 per year, depending on the situation.

Currently, there are 31 tuition-paying students in the district, but none require resources that exceed $6,500, Tomblin said. An average student with a reading disability, for example, would not incur extra cost.

However, as health or other factors change over time, a child's needs could increase to require additional resources.

'If we're going to take tuition students in, they should not cost us more than we get from the state to serve that student,' Korach said. 'If we can't provide what they need, we would look at the cost. We don't want to be in a position where it's costing us more money to have the student join us than the paid tuition.'

The district charges tuition only to students whose home district does not release them to attend school in Lake Oswego. In this case, state funding ($5,400) does not follow the student; so charging the $6,500 tuition covers the cost of their education in Lake Oswego.

If the home district does release the student, state funds and extra funds related to special needs do follow along. In this case, the district would not charge tuition. The district currently has a transfer agreement with Riverdale and West Linn-Wilsonville school districts.

The district of a special education student receives 'double weight,' or an extra $5,400 more in state funding per student than students who are not considered special needs.

The district would not automatically charge that amount for a tuition-paying special needs child. Instead, a team of district staff would tally each additional cost and present it to the applicant for consideration.

In the new application, students are required to attach a transcript, attendance record, a behavior misconduct record, TAG Plan, Individualized Education Plan and 504 Plan, if applicable.

After completion of the application, a team will review the plans of the potential incoming students to determine how their plans will be implemented in the district.

That team could include a principal, department directors, coordinators and a special education teacher representative from the school the child would attend. A member of the home district would also have an opportunity to participate.

The district would then determine what services it would offer according to each student's plan.

The student's admission as a tuition-paying student would be revoked if the student requires an out-of-district placement. Such a placement is given if the district or parent concludes that programs and services are not appropriate or sufficient for the student.

'The responsibility reverts back to the home district,' Korach said. 'We would want the same thing if it was our students in our district.'

The new guidelines remind applicants that tuitioning-in is optional and all students can obtain a free education in their home district, required by federal law. According to law, all services are provided at no extra charge to the student in his or her home district.

'Most of the time, the parents are looking at the appropriate amount of services and they realize those come at a cost,' Tomblin said. 'Parents can certainly use other avenues, such as an inner district transfer, instead.'