The thin, beige cover and the bureaucratic title, "The Least Restrictive Environment Plan For Special Education," could steer even the most ardent education advocate away from reading the contents.
Only Harry Fogle, Carroll's new supervisor of special education, could have sparked interest in the 30-page document by giving a brief, but enthusiastic, presentation to the school board Wednesday.
The plan, in its 12th draft, details the district's educational goals for students with disabilities and its efforts to send those pupils to neighborhood schools. The concept of such a program sounds simple, but is something that has been in the works for years.
"The bottom line in Carroll County is that we're doing that to a high degree of efficiency," said Fogle, who prepared his presentation without knowing whether he would be named to the supervisor post, left vacant by the retirement of Jewell H. Makolin.
Once passed by the board, the document will be submitted to the Maryland State Department of Education for approval by its special education and school constructiondivisions. The department will recommend future school construction and renovation projects to accommodate the disabled.
The plan is in response to a federal law that "children with disabilities be guaranteed the right to a free and appropriate education in the least-restrictive environment." In education circles, it's called mainstreaming-- placing disabled students in the classroom with the non-disabled.
Currently, only 3 percent of Carroll's disabled students attend school outside their neighborhoods. The national average is 6 percent,and the state average is 12 percent to 18 percent.
Also outlined in the report is classroom space and other school alterations needed to accommodate the disabled. Portable classrooms, for instance, are needed at some schools to accommodate various special education programs.
More staffing is needed, too. Carroll educators project the need for 49 teachers, 31 assistants, 14 counselors and 13.5 nurses as the effort to provide programs for the disabled at all schools continues. Educators have not put a price tag on those hires.
In additionto meeting the intent of the law, Carroll's plan sets several other goals, including reducing transportation time for students with disabilities, providing more opportunities for those pupils to participatein extracurricular activities with non-disabled peers and increasingparental involvement.
"We know it's an aggressive plan, but the key in Carroll is that we're a progressive school system," Fogle said."We can improve upon what we're doing well.
"We have an excellentprogram. Our intent is to take what we have and make it better."