PARIS — Three western Maine school districts have been awarded a state grant to provide technical and experiential learning opportunities for special education students who would otherwise receive services outside their districts.
School Administrative District 17 in Paris, including Oxford Hills Technical School, SAD 44 in Bethel and SAD 72 in Fryeburg are expected to save more than $2 million over five years under the regionalized approach.
“The program will accommodate between 15 and 30 students from SAD 17, SAD 44 and SAD 72,” SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts said. “It is looking like the district will establish the program at the Oxford Annex that houses the Oxford School Age Child Care program” next to Oxford Elementary School, he said.
The program will serve students in grades 6 to 12 who have autism and/or emotional disabilities and other challenging behaviors.
SAD 17 will act as the lead district in the Western Maine Regional Program for Children with Exceptionalities. The program is part of a statewide initiative called EMBRACE, or Enabling Maine Students to Benefit From Regional And Coordinated Approaches to Education.
He said the average annual cost of an out-of-district placement for SAD 17 is about $48,000 per student.
“The schools involved in the Western Maine Regional Program for Children with Exceptionalities will not only better serve students with autism and emotional challenges with improved learning opportunities, but they will also be able to provide these enhanced services closer to home,” Maine Commissioner of Education Robert G. Hasson Jr. said.
Colpitts said the district is still waiting to hear exactly how much the grant will be, but the cost to set up the program is expected to be $314,500.
Seven grants were awarded as the result of an executive order issued Jan. 2 by Gov. Paul LePage to promote regional efforts to achieve efficiencies in delivering educational services.
SAD 17 towns are Paris, Norway, Oxford, Otisfield, Harrison, Waterford, West Paris and Hebron. SAD 44 includes Bethel, Greenwood, Woodstock and Newry. SAD 72 includes Fryeburg, Lovell, Stoneham, Stow, Sweden, Denmark and Brownfield.