The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

April 22, 2012

Conneaut schools set to launch autism unit

CONNEAUT — The Conneaut school district is getting ready to teach its own students who need special attention, Board of Education members learned at Thursday night’s meeting.

A special unit geared to multi-handicap and autistic students should be ready for the start of the 2012-2013 school year, said Karen Kehoe, the district’s director of special services.

One teacher and two classroom aides will be hired to handle the class, Kehoe said. The jobs have already been posted, she said.

The class will be held at Lakeshore Primary School, Kehoe said.

So far, six students from kindergarten to fourth grade are expected to be enrolled, Kehoe said. No more than eight students can participate at a time, she said. There is a chance the unit could expand to Gateway Elementary School as the students age, Kehoe said.

Conneaut Area City Schools now sends the students to other schools at a considerable cost to the district. “We’re outsourcing our own kids,” Kehoe said.

Starting a class within the district would be a boon to the children and could also save the district some money, board members were told. “It could wind up being very beneficial,” Kehoe said.

In other business, members learned schools are gearing up for next week’s Ohio Achievement Assessments tests for students in grades 3-8. The test will gauge how students are performing in math, reading, science, social studies and writing.

Principals are taking the tests very seriously, and held events this week to prepare students for the important exams. A pep rally to boost enthusiasm was held at Gateway Elementary, said Principal Liesl Blackwell. Conneaut Middle School students who have perfect attendance during the testing period and show excellent effort will attend a Lake County Captains baseball game, said Principal Rita Maslovsky.

Conneaut’s Rotary Club again is providing breakfast and snacks to kids to make they can take the tests without any distractions, principals said.

Elsewhere, the board issued continuing and limited contracts to the district’s classified and certified employees, and accepted the resignation of long-time custodian John Lane, who will retire at the end of the month. Members also tentatively approved for graduation some 134 Conneaut High School seniors.

Members also learned the administration is considering a program that would send students home one hour early on Tuesdays to provide time for professional, structured development training for employees. Much of the supplemental training for staff has been lopped because of budget constraints, said Kent Houston, superintendent.

The board also convened a 30-minute work session to discuss the sale of property. It’s believed members talked about the former Rowe Middle School property on Rowe Street that failed to sale at auction in early March. The district can now sell the land by private means after offering it for bid.

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