Special needs shortfall in Raleigh County's Pre-K program? - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Special needs shortfall in Raleigh County's Pre-K program?

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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) There was growing concern Thursday over the number of special-needs students entering Raleigh County Schools' Pre-K program and questions about whether there are enough trained professionals to teach them.

Beckley attorney Darl Poling said his wife is a Pre-K teacher at Bradley Elementary School. She and another aide are charged with overseeing 19 children, ages four and five. But the group also includes a 3-year-old with special needs. That student was originally evaluated and mandated to have 120 hours of special instruction. But because there are not enough special education teachers at the school, he claims the board office has decreased that requirement to 30 minutes. 

He claims his wife and other teachers are being stretched too thin, with staff at other schools complaining of the same problem. Under West Virginia code, the state's Pre-K programs are limited to four and five-year-old children. But students with special needs are an exception to this rule, and he said it has caused problems in the classroom because of the placement of three-year-old special needs students with kids who are four and five. 

"The problem is we have special needs kids throughout this county in Pre-school that are not getting the services they need. They're taking time away from the teachers, and I don't mean this negatively, for issues such as potty training and taking them away from their teacher services. And the other kids, they're not getting services either," explained Poling. 

For example, in his wife's class Poling said she has to leave the classroom several times a day to help with potty training for the three-year-old, among other issues. He and his wife have reached out to the Raleigh County Board of Education multiple times, including filing a Freedom of Information Act request for information on the policy, but to date have received very little information. 

At the time of deadline, the board office had not responded to WVVA's request for a comment. 

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