Changes coming to Special Services in Dorchester District Two

Parents at Sand Hill Elementary learned about changes to Special Services programs and how the district is responding to overcrowding at a parent meeting.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:55 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2023 at 4:05 AM EDT
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DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Parents at Sand Hill Elementary learned about changes to Special Services programs and how the district is responding to overcrowding at a parent meeting Wednesday night.

Special Services leaders at Dorchester District Two explained to parents they are adding two new programs, changing the names of all the programs, and also moving some programs in response to overcrowding in schools.

During their presentation they explained they will be dissolving their PDK Program and introducing two new programs. They said PDK classes often had children with a range of disabilities, and that the new programs will place children in more appropriately matched programs.

They also announced new names for each special services program in the district.

The Director of Special Services Dr. Wanda Gadsden said the old names attached labels to children, and that she feels strongly the new terminology better represents each child they’re serving.

Due to what Dr. Gadsen called “unexpected” and “rapid” growth in the district, four special services classes will no longer be offered at Sand Hill Elementary.

“You can’t build a school in a year; you can’t go through rezoning in a couple of months. So, those are the next steps that will happen, but right now, this is the response that we have to have,” Dr. Gadsden said. “And traditionally this has been the response.”

Amy Fite has a six-year-old in the special services programs at Sand Hill and was told Wednesday night that he will be relocated to Knightsville.

Even though it’s not far, she said her son, Matheson, has a hard time with change.

She told me a story about how Matheson adjusted to attending summer school at a school he was unfamiliar with.

“He would cry, every day, and he would say ‘ready for school, no school,’ and he doesn’t talk much, he’s a man of few words, but I believe he was saying ‘I’m ready for school mom but this is not my school,’” Fite said. “And so once again, for next year, that is going to be our reality.”

Fite said, for special needs children, major adjustments can cause mood and behavior changes, and even regression.

She said moving special needs services should not be the district’s solution to overcrowding.

“Uprooting a child with special needs, anytime you need room in a school, and that’s your first solution, I don’t feel that that’s right,” Fite said.

Dr. Gadsden explained to parents they are going to do everything they can to help with the transition, including allowing special services children to tour the school and meet teachers before everyone else, and working to keep them with siblings and as close to home as possible.

But she said she recognizes; it won’t be easy.

“We don’t want to cause anxiety for you. Sometimes we have to make very hard decisions, and right now, to move programs is the most feasible thing that we can do initially to help with the growth in your neighborhood,” Dr. Gadsden said.

Dorchester District Two provided us the following statement:

The Dorchester School District Two Special Services team has enhanced the services it provides to students with special needs and their families. The district worked to limit the inconvenience of the change, and nearly all affected students will be attending the school zoned for their home address or the school nearest to home, where the program they need is provided. The district hosted this parent meeting to inform families in person, share the advantages of this program update, and collect feedback.