Hopewell School making changes for new school year

| May 23, 2016

COSHOCTON – Hopewell School is committed to making changes that will offer more reliable and consistent services to its students.

Starting in August, the classrooms will now have a teacher and an appropriate number of classroom assistants to meet the needs as defined by the students’ individual education plans (IEP). A classroom of seven or eight students will likely have a teacher and five assistants working as a team to meet the children’s needs.

Those students with IEPs that state they need a one on one aid will still have them, but everyone will be trained to know how to support each child as well as their individual aide.

“Instead of one person being with a child all day the whole team will support the child,” said Andrea McKay, compliance and outreach director for the Coshocton County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “They can all jump in if additional help is needed.”

Shannon Shontz, principal at the school, said in the past there were some parents who would not send their child to school if their aid was sick.

“They felt no one else knew them as well,” she said.

This new team approach will eliminate this problem.

“We saw an opportunity to improve how we support our children in all situations and felt this was the best way to serve them going forward,” McKay said.

All open positions created by this new team approach are right now posted internally and current aids will have the first opportunity to apply for them and be interviewed.

“We are going to have well trained teams working with our kids,” Shontz said.

The team members will be trained by the school’s therapy staff on how to handle the individual needs of each child. They also all will be Hopewell employees instead of the aides being hired through the school districts.

“We are always looking at how we can provide better services,” Shontz said. “We know change is scary for some, but change also can be good.”

They promise that no child will be left behind.

“They are going to get more and better support,” McKay said.

The school recently readjusted its new plan to make sure the one on one aides were still be part of the process after listening to parents’ concerns. Parents were not happy about them originally not being part of the plan or how it was communicated. To address these concerns, the administrative staff at Hopewell School invited parents to attend one of two meetings held May 23.

Eleven parents attend the morning meeting where Steve Oster, superintendent, explained why the school needed to make a change.

He shared with the parents that since the aides are hired through the public schools and paid by them their rates of pay are different so they’ve had aides move around looking for better opportunities.

“My concern is with the children’s safety,” Oster said. “We are not changing your IEP or taking your one on one aides away.”

By Hopewell hiring the aides, the school will be able to hold them to Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities standards, which are stricter, and offer them benefits. The aides will be called instructor assistants due to union regulations and Hopewell will no longer have to go through the school districts to address any concerns they have with them. They will now be able to handle any issues themselves.

“I like that you want more control in case of a bad situation, but that’s not how this was originally explained to me,” said Nate Armstrong, who has a child attending Hopewell. “At first I felt like I was being coerced into changing my son’s IEP and I love his one on one.”

Some parents even originally felt like if they didn’t accept the school’s first proposal to have teams of trained people working with their children instead of individual aids that their children would have no choice but to go to public school or be homeschooled.

“We don’t want to see your kids go back to public school,” Oster said. “We know some of our kids are not easy to serve. We want what is best for them and to be accountable for their safety and education.”

That is why Shontz said they listened to the concerns of the parents and came up with a new plan.

“We will have enough staff in the classrooms so they can still have their one on one aides,” she said.

Armstrong said he is glad the school’s staff listened to the parents concerns.

“There was a lot of misinformation and people not being upfront,” he said. “I love the services Hopewell provides, love the staff and so far up to this point have been very happy.”

Amara Smith also has been very happy with Hopewell and is glad they called the parent meetings on May 23 to address the concerns and rumors that were circulating around the community.

“A big reason why we live in Coshocton County is because of Hopewell,” she said. “If this meeting would have gone differently not being part of Hopewell would change the dynamics of our life. I homeschool my girls, but feel Skyler (my son) is best served here. I thank you for listening to us.”

Smith said if Hopewell would have eliminated the one on one aides she would have taken Skyler out of the school.

“I would have found a way to homeschool him,” she said.

Oster encouraged the parents to contact him or Shontz if they ever have any concerns.

“Our doors are always open,” he said. “We are all here for the kids.”

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Category: Education

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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