As students on the Central Coast ease into the new school year, local district officials say they are working to transition more special education students into general education classrooms.
The Santa Maria-Bonita School District's Director of Special Education, Erik Thompson, says the district is still phasing into the new changes, beginning with students in grades K-2.
"This has been part of special education law since 2004 in the Individuals with Disabilities Act," Thompson explained. "We are just making sure we are following the law and providing the appropriate opportunities for students based on their Individualized Learning Plan."
"It is good for the children in General Ed to see and be accepting of other kids who may be a little different," Guadalupe mother Patricia Rico told KSBY.
Rico says the Guadalupe Union School District, where her child attends school, has also started transitioning special education students into the general education curriculum.
"She is very shy because of [her] speech delay. But over the years, she has developed such strong independence and now she initiates play with her peers," Rico said of her daughter.
"What the research shows, is that having students with disabilities in the general education environment to the maximum extent appropriate leads to better outcomes for them and better post-school outcomes," Thompson added.
Still, local districts and parents realize that every student comes with varying needs.
"If students require a 'special day class,' we still have those. But it is our job and our obligation to provide faith in that least restrictive environment and provide that support and services in the Gen Ed environment," Thompson said.
"Different spectrums of learning, development. They can't all just be in general ed and thrive," Rico said.
Thompson adds that the district's support team has also been out at schools to provide assistance to general education teachers who have special education students in their classrooms.
Dr. Emilio Handall, Guadalupe Union School District Superintendent, says a majority of their special education students are enrolled in general education classes with a few exceptions for those with specific accommodations in their IEP's.
Some parents have expressed concern on social media about these changes. School district officials encourage parents of special education students to reach out to them and consider changes to their student's Individualized Learning Plan.