Sycamore special education teachers identify growing need

SYCAMORE – During an annual review of the Sycamore School Dsitrict 427′s special education program, school officials this week said there’s a growing number of students who require specialized learning.

During the 2021-2022 school year, Sycamore School District 427 assisted 562 students with an individualized learning program (IEP), which is 15% of the student body, said Lynn Reilley, director of special education for the school district. Reilley presented the Sycamore school board on Tuesday with an annual look at the status of districtwide special education.

Reilley said the special education program in Sycamore schools is specially designed to meet unique needs of each child with a disability at no cost to the parents.

A student qualifies for special education under the federal Disabilities Education Act, which helps those between 3 and 22 with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one of more major life activities, according to the Act.

Niamh Welp, coordinator of the Little Spartans Early Childhood Program, said that her program’s goal is to make young students the best learners they can be long-term.

“Our goal is … making that transition [to kindergarten] as easy as possible,” Welp said.

Little Spartans is a blended learning program with the goal of having 30% education students. Welp said that in recent years, the ratio is about 50/50.

During this school year, Little Spartans had 90 students: 52 tuition students and 38 IEP students. Welp said that 90 students have registered for next year and there is a waiting list of 14 students. Little Spartans is looking to hire another teacher.

During the last school board meeting, the Sycamore school board voted to raise the cost of the Little Spartans program by $10 a month.

“We don’t want to turn anyone away, but the cost of everything is going up from rising inflation,” Welp said. “We want to continue to grow and meet that need.”