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BoE hears special education initiatives, amends dirt agreement
Amended language trims $6,872 from construction costs
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During its Wednesday work session, the Liberty County Board of Education amended its agreement to purchase dirt from the county for construction of the Liberty College and Career Academy on Airport Road.

As required to meet Walthourville safety regulations, the original agreement called for a 6-foot, vinyl-coated, chain-link fence to be constructed around the perimeter of the county’s borrow pit, which is adjacent to the academy site.

In a cost-cutting measure, the board approved a language change that will allow construction of a fence that is not vinyl coated.

Last Thursday, the Liberty County Board of Commissioners approved a $46,099 bid for purchase and installation from American Fence, with the contingency that Chairman John McIver could negotiate for a lower price. 

With the change to a non-coated fence, the cost is reduced to $39,226.30, with a savings of $6,872.70, according to County Administrator Joey Brown.

During the session, Division for Exceptional Learning Executive Director Rebecca Kelly briefed the board on the department’s initiatives to meet and exceed state performance goals and indicators for students with disabilities.

Goals include decreasing the percentage of dropouts, increasing the percentage of students with disabilities who earn regular diplomas, increasing transitions to employment or postsecondary education after graduation and increasing the time children spend in classrooms with typically developing peers.

Two conflicting laws impinge on the department’s dropout rate, Kelly said. On one hand, students are supposed to complete their high school education within four years but, on the other, students with disabilities may remain in school until they are 22 years old, she said. Those who do not finish within four years count as dropouts, even if they stay until 22 and receive a diploma of completion.

Despite the complications, the district meets all but three indicators for students with disabilities: dropout rate, academic achievement and graduation rate. It exceeds the state rate for employment and postsecondary transitions and many other indicators, Kelly said.

In highlighting the department’s successes, she showed a video filled with testimonials and visual evidence to demonstrate one initiative: introducing Apple iPads into special-education classrooms.

The department bought 105 tablets last year and since then, teachers across the board have noticed increased performance and engagement, Kelly said. 

In the video, Lewis Frasier Middle School transitional math teacher Shauna Cromwell offers a testimonial about the value of the tablets: “The students are more eager to come to class. They have two math classes, so they weren’t really excited about coming to transitional math. … I’ve also seen a lot of improvement in their basic math skills using (two applications).”

The footage shows high-school students creating history podcasts, elementary-schoolers filming videos about types of nouns and even younger children playing counting and matching games.

“My kids were actually interacting with each other. They were laughing, they were taking turns, they were setting the timer; and we had never seen that before with them — the boys were actually talking to each other about the game they were playing with the iPad,” Snelson-Golden autism teacher Sandra Murfree said.

The iPad usage will expand during the next three years as the district implements a $1.3 million grant to place the tablets in all middle-school math and science classes.

Kelly also shared photos of a Wii Fit pilot program to engage students with severe and profound special needs in activities that enhance their health and fitness.

The exceptional learning department educators and initiatives are not funded by local revenue sources, but rather through state and federal allotments, Kelly added.

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