By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Hays USD 489 school board last week approved a two-year lease for space at the Hadley Center for two special education programs.
The space will be dubbed the WeKan Center and house the Early Childhood Special Education Program and Special Education Transitional Program for high school students.
Kyle Carlin, special education cooperative director, said the space available in the Early Childhood Complex for the Early Childhood Special Education Program is limited. The program can serve about seven students in that space at a time.
The program has split some of its spots with some children only attending two days per week.
The new center would run two half-day preschool programs four days per week, serving up to 10 students with disabilities.
The Fort Hays State University Tiger Tots program had been using a space in the Hadley Center, but is being moved back to campus. This left a vacancy at the center that was already set up for a preschool.
Although there would be some shared space, most of the day, the preschool children and transitional students would be in separate spaces.
The space that is left vacant at the Early Childhood Complex will be used for therapists, office space, testing and the facility’s mental health staff.
The eighth-grade class that is moving up to the high school in the fall has 14 students in its life skills section. This was going to put pressure on space available for special education at the high school, Carlin said.
Carlin proposed moving the high school students in the 18- to 21-year-old program to the Hadley Center to make more space for the younger students coming into the high school.
The programming at the new location will include work-based skills, work study, independent living skills, community engagement, self-advocacy and functional academic skills. The transitional students will still have access to resources at Hays High, including a functional ag class.
Carlin said he thought the location downtown should cut costs for student transportation as transitional high school students would be close to businesses where they could participate in work study.
The cost for the program will result in no net increase in cost to the coop or the Hays district. No additional staff will be needed to service the two programs at the new center.
The cost for renting the space will be $4,150 per month, but FHSU will contribute $1,300 per month toward rent, as it plans to use the center for a learning lab for its college students.
The remaining funding for rent will be paid for through federal COVID relief funds. Many of the students missed important learning opportunities during the pandemic, and this will allow them to do some catch up, Carlin said.
Students from all four school districts that are served by the special education cooperative will benefit from these programs. Those four schools include Hays, Ellis, Victoria and LaCrosse.
Carlin said he hoped the district could eventually develop enough space for the Early Childhood Special Education Program to move back to the Early Childhood Complex. However, he said he saw advantages in the transitional program remaining downtown.