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.