School board approves special ed cooperative

Published 11:09 am Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Building to be in Austin at Corcoran Center 

Albert Lea Area Schools is moving forward with the Austin Public School District on a cooperative school to assist severe special-education students.

The Albert Lea School Board unanimously approved a joint powers agreement Monday night with the Austin district on the cooperative.

Lori Volz

Lori Volz

Email newsletter signup

Austin voted to partner with Albert Lea on the cooperative earlier this month.

The cooperative would be met with a one-time, 2.2 percent increase in the tax levy for Albert Lea Area Schools taxpayers.

Costs after the startup would come in tuition service based on the amount of Albert Lea students who are served, said Albert Lea Director of Finance and Operations Lori Volz.

This equates to an $8 tax increase for the owner of a $100,000 home, said Albert Lea Superintendent Mike Funk.

The increase would last for 15 years to pay the lease levy for the building, which is projected to be at the Corcoran Center in Austin. Renovations are planned for the building.

The districts are in the process of purchasing the building.

The earliest the cooperative will open is mid-year in the 2016-17 school year, said Special Services Director Sarah Kloeckl.

The district projected 10 students needing placement in the cooperative earlier this month.

A detailed description of the plan was given before the board voted on it.

The cooperative board would include representatives from each member district, including a school board member and superintendent, special services directors from both districts and special education cooperative directors from each district. The board would operate like a typical school board and would have the power to adopt policies, bylaws and procedures to govern the operation of the cooperative and its programs.

The board will develop an annual budget and approve expenditures, enter into contracts for services, goods and properties, hire or contract for a cooperative director and other employees as needed and do what is reasonably necessary to achieve the cooperative’s purpose.

The two districts would collaborate to provide specialized services and programs for students in the Setting Four Emotional Behavioral Disorder and Students with Unique Needs programs.

Kloeckl said students with unique needs include students with lower cognitive ability and higher behavioral needs.

“It ensures that all of our students get an education in a program that’s appropriate,” Kloeckl said. “This program provides them the same equal opportunities their general education setting peers have in a setting that’s appropriate.”

She said students with emotional behavioral disorder are functioning students who could be violent or self-injurious.

Plans were scrapped in August for a possible collaboration between Albert Lea, Owatonna, Faribault, Austin and Northfield school districts to make a separate school in Owatonna.

Kloeckl said discussion soon followed between the two districts on the proposed cooperative.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

email author More by Sam