Collaboration and mutual respect are fundamental to the success of the District of Columbia Association for Special Education (DCASE) program to have nonpublic and charter school special education classrooms co-located within District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) facilities.
Benefits of co-location can include:
- Classroom-based training in special education techniques such as use of positive behavioral interventions and innovative curricula, provided for DCPS teachers on site;
- School-wide training providing strategies for successful inclusion of special education students in public schools;
- Integrating DCASE students with general education students in non-academic school functions, such as school assemblies, when appropriate;
- More efficient planning with DCPS staff for transition of students with disabilities who are ready to attend a general education setting;
- Reducing the time spent on DCPS buses transporting students with disabilities to nonpublic schools in Maryland and Virginia
- Reducing the costs of transporting students with disabilities to nonpublic schools; and,
- Increasing general education students’ acceptance, familiarity, and appreciation of students with disabilities.
Negotiations between DCASE and the Office of Superintendent of Special Education (OSSE) or DCPS to establish a co-location program should result in documents that include the following:
- Process for general communication;
- Process for joint planning of all anticipated services;
- Measures to ensure that students with disabilities are treated respectfully;
- Timetable and sequence for implementation;
- Procedures for periodic review of each co-located program to be conducted collaboratively by all involved;
- Process for the evaluation of service effectiveness; and,
- Written memoranda of understanding on all the above issues.
Success of co-location efforts requires written agreements that specify the following:
- Number of co-located students in the public facility;
- Number of nonpublic students per classroom; number of teachers and paraprofessionals;
- Number of classrooms, therapy rooms, and office space allotted to the nonpublic facility;
- School calendar and hours of operation;
- Staff in-service schedules;
- Financial obligations of the nonpublic provider;
- Financial obligations of agencies of the District of Columbia;
- Structural changes to the building necessary to provide safety, suitable building access and egress including during inclement weather, and integration of students in non-academic activities;
- Availability of site for extended school year;
- Emergency plans and participation in emergency preparedness activities;
- Responsibility for janitorial services, equipment maintenance and repair;
- Applicability of school discipline and suspension policies to students with disabilities; and,
- A clear process to be followed to resolve any disagreements that develop about the implementation of these provisions.
Commitments by DCASE members that have programs co-located in DCPS are to:
- Abide by all applicable federal and local laws, regulations, rules, and policies, including but not limited to Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA), Section 504, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and No Child Left Behind (NCLB);
- Inform DCPS when an opening or vacancy is imminent or exists in one of its co-located classrooms;
- Collaborate with OSSE to ensure Medicaid reimbursement of all eligible services and programs; and,
- Abide by responsibilities to students, families, and funding agencies as outlined in the DCASE Statement of Ethical Practices.