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Changes to MPS Autism Program
WHO were the decision makers:

This program change to provide more inclusive learning environments for our students whenever possible was enacted by district leadership with input from the parent-led Special Education Advisory Committee

WHAT was decided:

Students with autism in grades 1 through 12 will see no change. They will continue with their current programs, as outlined in their Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

The Citywide Autism Program is not going away. Students whose IEPs determine that they will be best served by the Citywide Autism Program will continue to be served by this program.

There are three central changes:

1. Community schools across the district will benefit from increased supports and services for students with autism, including the hiring of three itinerant autism teachers, additional special education assistant (SEA) supports, and autism training for community school teachers. 

2. Three Citywide Autism Program kindergarten classrooms across the district will be closing.

3. There will be a reduction of ECSE classrooms, resulting in eight students being served in a classroom rather than six for the 2015-2016 school year.  

WHERE will these changes take place:

There will be three fewer kindergarten classrooms in the Citywide Autism Program across the district, (one fewer classroom each at Burroughs, Folwell, and Jenny Lind). This will bring the total number of Citywide Autism Program classrooms down from 71 to 68.

These funds have been reallocated to increase the supports and services for students with autism in community schools. For example, additional special education assistant (SEA) supports have been allocated to Lake Harriet Lower, Jenny Lind, Marcy Open, and Northrop based on their enrollment of students with autism.

WHEN will the changes be implemented:

These changes will go into effect at the start of the 2015-2016 school year. 

WHY are these changes happening:

The assessed needs of the incoming kindergartners drove the decision to close three Citywide Autism Program classrooms and reallocate the funds to serve those students with autism who will be attending community schools. (Based on IEP determinations of the 49 incoming kindergartners with autism, 23 will be attending community schools.)

Citywide Autism Programs are necessary for many, but not all, students with autism. Providing a continuum of services, including non-restrictive environments, is how we are able to meet the specific needs of each of our students. Federal law also states that schools must provide the least restricted environment available that meets a student’s needs, in the school the student would attend if he/she did not have a disability, to the greatest extent possible.

Regarding the change in class sizes for ECSE, class sizes in the past were determined by disability label rather than student need. The caseload for autism ECSE teachers is increasing to be in line with the caseloads of other ECSE teachers. Moving forward, all ECSE classroom sizes will be 16 (8 in the morning and 8 in the afternoon) regardless of disability label. This will ensure that we are providing equitable services to all of our ECSE students. Our ECSE administrator and ECSE District Program Facilitators (DPFs) will continue to work closely with ECSE classrooms to determine supports and resources based on individual student needs.

The Minnesota Administrative Rule for ECSE caseloads states eight students (regardless of disability label), one teacher and one paraprofessional. Minneapolis Pubic Schools will continue to staff our ECSE classrooms with one teacher and two paraprofessionals, as well as additional supports as determined by student need. So, even with the increased class size, we will continue to provide additional staffing beyond Minnesota Administrative Rule. With this change in caseload, we will also have the flexibility to lower a class size if student need calls for that.


Minneapolis Public Schools has always provided a continuum of services district-wide. What is changing this year is that we’re providing more supports to our community schools so that more of our students have option of attending them.

We are federally mandated to provide the least restricted environment for each student that meets the student’s needs. These changes help us meet that mandate.

Families have stressed the importance of having a continuum of services, and we agree. To the greatest extent possible, we want our special education services to come to the student, rather than the student having to go to the service. This is why we are providing more inclusive special education services in community schools.