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Central Texas school district stays afloat amid shortage in special education teachers

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WACO. Texas (FOX 44) — The national shortage of special education teachers is putting some schools in Central Texas in a tough situation.

It’s a discussion many districts are having to ensure students with special needs are supported.

We reached out online and this topic is a big deal to parents mentioning how substitutes, even long-term ones were needed to step into the classroom.

This year, Killeen ISD has made strides to improve.

“These special education aids and teachers just really go through it. You got to really love working with spread kids,” said Killeen ISD parent, Desiree Bonavita.

Bonavita volunteers at Venable Village Elementary School.

Her son was in a class for students with special needs and says teacher shortages caused some challenges in his learning.

“The young ones need a lot more one-on-one attention and they’re the ones that are like runners, so they’re the ones who need the special education aids a lot more,” said Bonavita.

Another parent who wished to stay anonymous shared similar thoughts about her daughter attending Cavazos Elementary.

“She has trouble with change. If they could keep things consistent it would be easier for her,” said Bonavita.

Killeen ISD head of communications Taina Maya says the district transformed its special education department to the department of specialized learning.

Last year the district offered a $5,000 dollar stipend for self-contained teachers.

An additional stipend of $1,500 was added this year for special education inclusion and resource teachers.

“The person that takes those students out of the classroom to work on them in a smaller group setting or one-on-one also has to do additional documentation and paperwork that is beyond that of what a teacher does,” said Maya. “We recognize that that’s an additional time that they might be spending, and so that’s just a small token of the opportunity that we can give that they’re giving to our students so we give to them.”

Maya says KISD works with contractors to meet student needs when there’s a staff opening.

The fill-in staff are in line with TEA requirements.

Bonavita and the other KISD parent we spoke with say they’ve seen the district’s progress this school year.

“This is going to be a really great year because they’ve already, first week, gone out of their way to try and make sure all the students are happy and comfortable,” said Bonavita.

If you’re not sure if you’re child needs to be evaluated or a teacher recommends it, Maya encourages parents to contact their campus principal to make sure they meet each student’s needs for success.

KISD also has a new executive director for specialized learning to strengthen its skills.

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