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Public, private schools address special education needs in Bozeman

BOZEMAN – Bozeman Public Schools serve around 750 students needing individualized education programs. That’s about 10 percent of kids in the district.

That percentage accounts only for students in public schools, never mind the growing special education needs outside of the public school system.

“This is a community that embraces diversity; this is a community that really supports education,” Director of Special Education for Bozeman Public Schools Chad Berg said.

The Bozeman School District supports diverse learners within their mission of every student reaching success. The district provides a variety of resources for special needs, including individualized education programs.

“It takes into account each child’s strengths, as well as their needs, as well as a families hopes and dreams for their child,” Berg said. “And we write individualized goals as to what we want to see that child accomplish in the coming years and then we wrap support around that child and every IEP is really unique and individualized for the child.”

Private schools typically don’t offer special education, but Cottonwood Day School in Bozeman specializes in it.

“We really take a multi-sensory approach and we support multiple domains. What that means is we are not only supporting a child’s academic needs, but we’re also providing therapeutic support in areas of speech-language therapy. We have an occupational therapist on staff; we also have a counselor to deal with some emotional needs that a child may have. We really try to support the whole child, not just the academic piece,” Executive Director and Founder of Cottonwood Day School Meredith Scully said.

The private nonprofit school serving kids 1st through 8th grade works hard to give the 16 students who attend the education they need.

Scully said, “We have to individualize and differentiate instruction for every single child. It’s a tremendous amount of work but when you see the growth of a child over a period of time it’s extremely rewarding.”

The Cottonwood Day School is the first and only school in Montana designed specifically for children with learning disabilities. Since its opening four years ago, the staff has seen a growing need for special education in Gallatin County.

Reporting by Emma Hamilton for MTN News

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