Lucia Mar to keep special education contract

The county’s largest school district, Lucia Mar, will continue to contract with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education for special education services — making it the only large school district left in the county to do so.

The county will continue to provide 10 regional classes to Lucia Mar students at locations within the South County district’s boundaries. Those classes include four elementary classes, one middle school class, two high school classes, one class for medically fragile students, one adult and transition program and one adult living skills class.

Atascadero and Paso Robles school districts decided earlier this month to transfer control of special education programs, except for medically fragile and adult programs, back to the districts’ control next school year, citing concerns about the growing cost of such programs. San Luis Coastal transferred its classes back the year before.

The county Office of Education provides special education services to 280 students for school districts countywide. That number is expected to drop by half next year, according to county Office of Education staff.

Lucia Mar will continue to receive services such as adaptive physical education, occupational therapy and orthopedic services from the county, according to a three-year agreement approved by district trustees earlier this month.

However, the district may still consider taking over the special education services before the contract expires, said Don Dennison, director of student services for Lucia Mar.

Dennison said that Lucia Mar was caught unaware of the other school districts’ decision to take back the services.

“We are not opposed to possibly doing the same thing — we just aren’t there yet,” Dennison said.

Concern that the cost for services would increase significantly because of the other school districts’ decision to pull out of the county’s services led the district to file a request to transfer its own classes back, Dennison said.

However, a cost analysis determined that pulling out of the county’s services would have little impact, Dennison said. The cost of the programs was not available.

“Keeping the program as it is first and foremost maintains continuity for the students,” Dennison said. “We have also received an assurance from the county Office of Education that costs will be contained.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.