The demand for special-needs classes continues to expand in Columbia County.
"We are overflowing at this point," said Cathie Justen, the school system's special services coordinator.
"This program continues to grow. Right now, we're approaching the limits, and we're anticipating even more students next year."
Special-needs prekindergarten classes, which include 3- and 4-year-olds, are held at Bel Air, Grovetown and Martinez elementary schools.
This year, a class also opened at River Ridge Elementary.
The school system provides transportation for special-needs students to the school for which they are most suited.
Of about 2,200 special-needs students in the system, 70 to 90 are prekindergarten pupils, Justen said.
"They're receiving services directly in the classroom, through a day-care provider in the community, or in their home," she said.
To qualify for the system's pre-K special-needs program, pupils must undergo a screening process, which is held monthly. At the screening, a pupil meets with a psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech therapist and preschool teacher.
"We bring all those people in to screen them," Justen said. "Then we go from there to identify what their needs are."
Special needs includes pupils who are autistic, deaf or hard of hearing and blind, and those who have emotional or behavioral disorders, mild to severe intellectual disabilities, orthopedic impairments and health impairments.
After the screening, qualifying students meet with an Individualized Education Program team, which determines their curriculum.
Anyone with a special-needs child who wants to receive school system services can call the special services department at (706) 541-2700.
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