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WCS Board adds N. Miami to co-op

PHOTO BY ANDREW CHRISTMAN/achristman@wabashplaindealer.com DISCUSSION:(From left) WCS Board President Tony Pulley, WCS Superintendent Jason Callahan and WCS BoardVice President Liz Hobbs discuss adding North Miami to the Wabash-Miami Area Program during their meeting Monday night.

by ANDREW CHRISTMAN - achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

The Wabash City School Board of Education voted in favor Monday of allowing North Miami Community Schools to join the Wabash-Miami Area Program.

According to the area program website, the cooperative currently serves 1,150 students with disabilities, including blind or low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, early childhood services and vocational rehabilitation in both Wabash and Miami Counties. The program is designed to help students with disabilities succeed in the classroom. 

WCS Superintendent Jason Callahan told the board North Miami had approached them after the Logansport Area Joint Special Education Services was announced to be dissolving.

“I think the entire cooperative wanted to do right by the kids at North Miami,” Callahan said.

However, there are stipulations before North Miami will be allowed to join the cooperative. Callahan said those running the program will apply for and utilize North Miami’s leftover 2019 Part B funding, which is a federal special education grant. After the 2020 Part B grant is awarded, the Wabash-Miami Area Program will utilize all of North Miami’s grant to provide services to students.

The expectation of North Miami is the same for the other school corporations of WCS, MSD of Wabash County, Manchester Community Schools and Peru Community Schools.

Callahan added along with the Part B funding, North Miami will be contributing $80,000 for the 2019-20 school year to help cover anticipated expenses for services.

“This is that buffer and protection, looking at speech language services, (which) could be an additional cost,” Callahan said.

In the future, the goal will be for Part B contributions to cover services from the cooperative.

“We wanted to include that in there so we could ensure North Miami didn’t feel like we were taking advantage of them and their situation of looking for a cooperative,” Callahan said. “It was to protect the cooperative from financial risk.”

Before North Miami can become a part of area program, all school boards of the cooperative will have to approve the addition. The WCS board voted unanimously to allow them to join. 

WCS Board President Tony Pulley noted the addition will keep the cooperative consistent with the Heartland Career Center agreement, which showcases cooperation between the five school systems.

Callahan added he believes around 16 percent of North Miami’s student population receive special education services currently.

In other business, the board unanimously approved the purchase of one acre of land on the east side of O.J. Neighbours Elementary School from The First United Methodist Church for $2,600. Callahan said the purchase was done for possible future development.