Marshall School Board voices support for special education facilities

MARSHALL — Not all children learn best in a mainstream school setting. However, facilities and educational programs for students with special needs are few and far between in southwest Minnesota, members of the Marshall School Board said.

That was one reason why, at their regular meeting Tuesday, school board members put their support behind a resolution calling for state funding for special education facilities in the region. The resolution urges Minnesota legislators to invest in federal setting 4 educational facilities for the Southwest West Central Service Cooperative.

The cooperative provides educational services across an 18-county area, including Lyon County.

“Federal setting 4” is a classification of special education facilities, school board members explained Tuesday. A setting 4 facility provides special education geared toward children who may have behavioral or emotional needs, autism, or other specialized educational needs, said board members Matt Coleman and Bill Swope.

Marshall Superintendent Scott Monson said SWWC Service Cooperative is seeing a growing number of students in southwest Minnesota who are in need of setting 4-level services. But because there aren’t many facilities in the region that provide those services, students are spending “a quite significant amount of time” being transported to and from school, Monson said.

Coleman described one example of the kind of long commutes facing children with special needs. In one case, a student from Lyon County needed to travel daily to educational facilities in Cosmos, more than 70 miles away, he said.

The resolution before the school board on Tuesday urged the governor and the state Legislature to invest “significant” state funding to help develop federal setting 4 facilities for SWWC Service Cooperative. Service cooperatives like SWWC don’t have any way to levy funding for the facilities, Coleman said.

The resolution said the cooperative has found that a capital investment of $40 million to $50 million is needed to meet facility and educational program needs for students in the region.

The school board voted to pass the resolution voicing support for setting 4 facilities funding. Board member Dion Caron abstained from the vote.

• Growing educational needs were the focus of another school board action Tuesday. Board members approved an amended agreement with SWWC Service Cooperative, which would add the services of a speech and language pathologist for the Marshall district, in a half-time position.

Monson said Marshall has access to speech and language services through the cooperative. “Looking at our needs for next year,” he said, it was anticipated that the district will need those services in 2018-19.

Board members voted to approve the agreement, with Caron abstaining.