Campbell School Board discusses new app, special ed plan

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The annual special education plan was a key topic of conversation for the Campbell County School Board on Monday night.

Nick Pontius, director of pupil personnel, gave a presentation to the board on the annual plan application of the special education advisory committee, something he said the division does every year.

Each school division is required by state and federal law to submit an annual plan to the Virginia Department of Education for funding to provide special education services to identified children with disabilities within the jurisdiction.

Pontius said the purpose of the federal grant is to assure all children with disabilities have a free and appropriate education available to them.

Currently, the division has 1,219 students in special education out of 7,896 total, which is 15% of students in Campbell County, Pontius explained.

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He said staff is seeing an increase in speech and language impairment, now 230 students, up from 188 last year.

“I’m a little worried about our young kids,” he said. “What they are getting at home … are they being read to at early ages to help develop those language and communication things?”

Pontius said the number of students with other health impairments continues to climb — 208 students this year, with 202 students in 2022 and 187 students in 2021.

He also mentioned a growth in autism — 186 students in 2023 and 171 students in 2022.

Looking ahead to the fiscal year 2025 budget, Pontius is asking for the following on behalf of special education:

Move the current math coach to full time, who Pontius said wears “two distinct hats” as teacher for the hearing impaired and support for other math teachers;

Hire two education assessors and compliance coaches;

Add an adaptive curriculum teacher; and

Hire a general education teacher, who is special education certified, at Leesville Road Elementary School.

This fiscal year, Pontius said special education received $1.9 million in federal funding and $1.7 million in state funding for fiscal year 2023.

“That addition was really helpful to see an increase in federal funding,” he said, adding the extra money helped the division bring in 17 special education teachers, seven paraprofessionals, three instructional staff, two speech therapists and one school psychologist.

“We used our federal funds to hire people. We think people are the best resource for kids,” he said.

Pontius said localities pay the highest proportion of special education costs: about 69% compared to 19% from state money and 11% from federal funds.

According to a special education performance report from the state in 2021, Campbell County graduated about 74% of its students and compared to other counties: Bedford graduated about 61%, Appomattox graduated about 62%, Lynchburg graduated about 48% and Amherst about 74%, according to Pontius.

“We’re pretty proud of that,” he said.

The board approved the annual plan, and the next step is to submit it to the state.

Division staff also presented to the board a new app for students and parents.

The app will act as a central hub and an easy place to access what you need, such as records and important announcements like two-hour delays.

Marc Hudson, director of technology, said the app will be available for download through the Google Play Store and the Apple Store. Hudson said drafts are completed and have been submitted to Google and Apple for approval.

“It is in the first stages of approval from Google, so it’s on its way,” he said. “We’re very excited. It’s very sharp, crisp looking.”

Once on the app, it will default for every user to Campbell County, meaning parents will have access to any county-level announcements.

Also, there’s an option to pick a specific school in the county.

“So, if you have a student in a high school and a student in a middle school, you can receive announcements from those schools as well,” Hudson said.

On the home tab in the app, there will be 10 news feeds to keep the county residents up to date with what’s going on in the division.

Parents also will have access to the staff directory, school board information and the division’s Facebook page.

Hudson said the county’s website will be linked in with the app, so as updates happen online, they will also appear on the app.

Additionally, there’s an option to click on each individual school to see the phone number, address, website, principal information and an option to click on a map for directions.

There’s also an option to view the division’s calendar, school nutrition website and the student portal.

Hudson said there’s a strenuous process to getting it approved at the Google Play and Apple stores, but it shouldn’t be “too terribly” longer.

“We’re very excited, it should be coming very soon,” he said.

The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. March 11 at the Campbell County Technical Center, to continue discussion of the division’s budget plan.

Rodney Robinson Jr., (434) 385-5554

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