MASSENA — Anticipating that some students may need extra assistance when school resumes in the fall, the Massena Central School District’s Board of Education has approved the hiring of a second occupational therapist.
“The Office of Special Services has requested for us to have another district occupational therapist to meet the needs of our students. Currently, we have one occupational therapist and we also receive services through an outside provider,” Superintendent Patrick Brady said.
During a previous meeting, he had presented the board with a list of personnel requests using federal funding to address areas such as learning loss and social and emotional learning during the pandemic. Among them and using $674,880 in pre-kindergarten funding, the district plans to convert from a half-day to a full-day pre-kindergarten program. That would mean the addition of three teachers and three teacher assistants at a cost of $465,000.
The district is also receiving $8.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. Mr. Brady had presented the board with a proposed list of personnel additions, including a reading intervention teacher, two academic intervention teacher assistants and a technology teacher or teacher assistant at the high school, as well as a math intervention teacher, reading intervention teacher, academic intervention teacher assistant, and an increase in a library media specialist position to full time at the junior high.
Also on the list were three academic intervention teacher assistants per elementary school, a director of academic support services and two school social workers.
“At the last meeting, we presented a list of requests to the board along the lines that I just mentioned to you with the learning loss, social and emotional learning, and so forth. We also stated that we may be coming back with some other requests related to special services, and this was one of them,” Mr. Brady said of the request.
He said, over the past couple of years, there has been a need for additional support, “particularly when adding the new preschool programs at Madison and Nightengale (elementary schools). It’s been difficult under the current services to keep up with the number of students who need occupational therapy.”
He said students who may have weaknesses and trouble with their fine motor skills, sensory processing, visual perceptions and visual processing may need the services of an occupational therapist.
“We are seeing a higher caseload and the Office of Special Services has requested this for some time. I think now with the federal funding, we agreed to take a re-look at it and are asking the board to consider adding another occupational therapist,” Mr. Brady said.
Board member Kevin Perretta said a bullet point in a letter sent by Mr. Brady to board members said that every year the district is out of compliance in covering occupational therapy services on Individualized Education Plans for school-age and preschool students.
“What’s our liability to that effect? What could happen to us?” he asked.
“A concern from a parent. A concern from State Ed. We’re doing what we can and I think adding another occupational therapist will help us meet the standards,” Mr. Brady said.