The Lodi Unified School District Board of Trustees voted 4-2 in favor of moving forward on a clinical program for emotionally disturbed students who have demonstrated a need for special services, proposed for the former Turner Elementary School site. Ruth Davis and Ron Heberle opposed the motion.
Bonnie Cassel voted in favor of the motion, saying that it would be easier for families of these students to be involved in the rehabilitation and counseling processes.
“It’s meeting the needs of a very fragile population of students,” said Cassel.
Expanding the Walter Katnich Community Day School, currently at the Henderson Community Day School site on Extension Road in Lodi, was also on the board’s agenda. But there was no motion made on that item. The school houses a district-run program for students who were expelled from other campuses, usually for behavioral issues.
In May, the board approved an expansion of the Katnich program and a move to the Turner site, on Ray Road in Lodi, was planned for this fall. Neither of those actions took place.
Instead, a proposal came forward from David Wax, administrative director, to establish a clinical program for emotionally disturbed non-public school students at the Turner school site.
The program would consist of six classes with no more than 12 students per class, ranging from first to eighth grade. Each class would be taught by a full-time special education teacher with two paraeducators per class. The school would also hire a vice principal, three counselors, one school psychologist and two more paraeducators unassigned to a classroom.
Both programs considered on Tuesday night are part of a district effort to maximize resources and minimize revenue leaving the district.
It can be very expensive to meet the needs of non-public school students, those who are unsuccessful in a mainstream classroom or intensive intervention program. The cost of educating these students in the Lodi area is about $2,997,205 per year. The state offers only $842,948, leaving Lodi Unified to cover the difference. If the clinical program were operating at capacity, it would reduce the general fund contribution by $2,569,032 a year.
Students at Katnich would otherwise attend the county’s .one program, while potential candidates for the clinical program are bused outside the county for educational services. As it stands now, Katnich allows the district to keep about $6,000 per student per year in state funding it was losing to the San Joaquin County Office of Education.
The board determined that the Turner site was a better fit for the clinical program. For now, the board requested a more specific plan for the Katnich program. There are no other district facilities currently available for the program to have its own site. Expansion at the Henderson site is not ideal because the location is currently home to three programs: Katnich Community Day School, Henderson Community Day School and Independence School.
Ruth Davis visited the Henderson site recently. She suggested that a separate site was needed for the program.
“I think it’s a very bad idea to put kids who don’t do well in regular classes next to kids who have been expelled,” said Davis.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.