The Deer Lakes School District continues to implement a co-teaching model at both secondary buildings with five special education teachers that are also content certified in each of the two buildings. At the Deer Lakes High School, the Director of Special Education and High School Principal participated in a Co-Teaching Professional Learning Community with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU), which included meetings, webinars, district tours, readings, and a cumulative research project. In addition, there were days of professional development provided to the co-teaching teams at the high school.
This year, both elementary buildings are participating in a Pennsylvania Department of Education Bureau of Special Education Grant opportunity on Universal Design for Learning. Teams from Curtisville and East Union receive professional development, and coaching from experts in the field, which will be used to further enhance learning opportunities for students at Deer Lakes.
Deer Lakes has also participated in the Project MAX trainings with a team of middle school teachers and administrators to learn more about how to support students with complex needs in the least restrictrive environment. The team submitted a final project and utilized the resources and skills to support students with complex needs to actively participate in the regular education classroom. There was follow up onsite training provided to the middle school staff to facilitate the expansion of the initiative as well as support IEP teams working with individual students. The district has also increased the number of sensory rooms so there is one room in three different buildings.
Over the past four years, the district has partnered with the Allegheny Intermediate Unit Training and Consultation team to implement assistive technology supports for students so they can participate in both the regular and special education classrooms. The AIU consultant collaborates with IEP teams to complete assistive technology evaluations for students and then provide follow up support to the teacher, student, and parent. Deer Lakes currently purchases several programs and subscriptions that allow students to have access to text-to-speech, talk-to-text and word prediction software, audiobooks, and other supports. Onsite training was provided for paraprofessionals, individual teachers, IEP teams, students, and parents and this continues as needed. Specific teams have also attended conferences and workshops to learn more about Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
Last year, a team from the Curtisville Primary Center participated in the Beyond Dyslexia Pilot program that was offered through PaTTAN and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. This program provided days of training, as well as onsite support from the AIU. The Director of Special Education, school psychologist, and several special education teachers have also attended trainings on dyslexia offered by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and additional conferences offered by other organizations, such as the International Dyslexia Association. Over the past two years, the district has implemented the use of tier two and tier three intervention programs that support students with dyslexia.
The Best Buddies Club continues to be active at the High School, including sponsoring the ”Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign. A student representative attends the National Conference annually and Advisor Mrs. Autumn Weleski, was named Best Buddies Pittsburgh Advisor of the Year! This year, the Middle School started a Best Buddies Club. New this school year, Deer Lakes High School has a Special Olympics Unified Bocce team that involves special and general education students, who play other area school teams. Some students who receive special education services also participate in the Boy Scouts of America TrailBlazer and Champions programs in their buildings.