New position OK’d for high school students with disabilities

The Princeton School District’s finance committee has authorized establishing a second paraprofessional position to assist in a program that helps young people with disabilities who have graduated from the high school.
The transition program prepares the students for living as independently as possible and addresses specific needs. Some may need the program for one year, while others may need it for more time.
Erin Dohrmann, special education director for the Princeton district and Rum River Co-op, requested the second paraprofessional position, which will cost about $26,000 per year. Sixty-eight percent of that will be reimbursed by the state.
Dohrmann told the finance committee that the transition program this coming school year will have seven or so students. It will use the portable building on the west side of the high school that had been used for classrooms and study hall.
Dohrmann said that most of the work with the students will be out in the community, teaching them about job skills, how to use a kitchenette, keep a workspace clean, communicate with fellow workers and use the laundromat.
Students with disabilities can stay in the high school program until their 21st birthday, according to Dohrmann. The state average for students with disabilities in schools is 14-15 percent, while Princeton’s percentage is 12-13, according to Dohrmann.
Dohrmann noted that in three more years there will be a new group of special needs students graduating that have more needs. Because of that, the transition program will need more space than the portable building at the high school affords and will need even more staff, Dohrmann said. She added that she’d love if the district could acquire a house near the high school to have for the training, as she explained how the transition program is being expanded here. At one point a school staff member had talked to Family Pathways about using its teen center during the day for this, but the problem with that is if Family Pathways should ever close the center, Dohrmann noted.
The disabilities can be either physical, cognitive thinking or sensory, according to Dohrmann.