State seeks to address shortage of special education teachers, as FM parents express concern on upcoming year

$750,000 will go towards 20 scholarships for students looking to become special education teachers
Published: Aug. 12, 2020 at 6:51 PM CDT
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WEST FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - North Dakota is putting federal money into an effort to get more special education teachers into schools across the state

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler made the announcement Wednesday morning. The state was using $750,000 from CARES Act funds it received to create 20 scholarships for paraprofessionals taking part in a program at Minot State University to teach special education students.

That comes at a time when parents in the Fargo area said they’re concerned about the upcoming school year.

Theresa Busche has two kids enrolled at Osgood Elementary in West Fargo.

Last year, both abruptly transitioned like other students from in-class to remote learning once the pandemic forced schools to close.

“My kids need stability. They like that. It’s something that is important to them. I mean, it’s important to all children,” Busche said on Wednesday.

Busche added it wasn’t a good experience for her children who have Individual Education Plans, or IEP’s as they called for short.

“I’m reluctant that they’re going to be able to get the support that they need,” Busche said.

Busche became even more concerned, once West Fargo Public Schools announced it’s using a hybrid model for learning this year.

“There’s no way that they’re going to be able to keep them [socially] distanced,” Busche said. “For one, I don’t feel like it’s going to happen that way. I’m reluctant to send my kids to school for that reason.”

West Fargo Public Schools previously told us it’s possible students with IEP’s could get additional help on Wednesdays.

Fargo Public Schools has yet to announce its plans for students who need special education, and that district has ten job openings in the special education and support services area, according to its website.

Dr. Holly Pedersen is the chairwoman of Minot State’s special education department. She’s leading the new program that’s helping paraprofessionals get their teaching licenses in less than two years.

“The program incorporates giving them credit for...that on the job experience that they’ve already gotten,” Pedersen said.

Governor Doug Burgum, R-ND, awarded the university the $750,000 to fund the 20 scholarships.

Pedersen said there are some paraprofessionals from Fargo and West Fargo schools who are included in that bunch. They’re starting in less than two weeks.

“We were able to select 20 that represent a variety of school districts,” Pedersen said. “You know, on some of our Native American reservations as well as large city school districts.”

Those paras are scheduled to graduate in the winter of 2022.

When asked by us when the district will release its plan for special education students, Fargo Public Schools said it’s continuing to create information for families who have students that receive special services.

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