A special education collaborative between three Indiana counties plans to shut its doors after 43 years.
The Hancock Madison Shelby Educational Services cooperative, which this year served about 2,500 students in five school corporations, will close at the end of the 2016-17 school year. HMSES, a co-op between schools in Hancock, Madison and Shelby Counties, provides special education services across districts.
Each district helps pay for the collaborative and receives services, making it significantly cheaper than having individual programs in each district. But since 2014, two districts have announced plans to pull out, making the co-op less sustainable.
Eastern Hancock Superintendent Vickie McGuire says she was blindsided by the HMSES’s decision to shut down.
“I did not expect it,” McGuire says.
McGuire says the elimination of the co-op means the loss of occupational therapy, physical therapy, visual impaired services, psychiatrists and psychologists for almost 200 Eastern Hancock students each year.
Federal and state law requires schools to provide special education. Without the HMSES, the district will have to bear the cost of those services themselves.
“We just won’t be able to share some of the costly services that are kind of hard to find,” McGuire says.
State law allows for districts to create cooperatives to provide services to Hoosier students with disabilities. McGuire hopes to partner with neighboring schools to continue sharing services – and the costs of hiring new teachers.
“Funds are tight but we will make sure that we hire — we have to it’s a law that we meet their needs,” McGuire says. “So whatever we have to do, that is what we will absolutely do.”