Teacher Shortage Forces Colfax School District to End Special Needs Program

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The Colfax School District officially ended a school program for its special needs elementary students Friday, a move district officials say was necessary, but one that left parents of special needs students having to search for another school district for their children.

One of the draws for Trina Weitezel's family when they moved to Colfax was the Special Day Class program at Colfax schools. Her son has high-functioning autism.

"When we enrolled we were told this program was doing very well, and we had a teacher to begin with," Weitezel said.

Weitezel says just two weeks ago she got a phone call saying the program would end Nov. 6, and now she and the parents of five other special needs students need to find a new school.

"My son is just very upset. He's very distraught. He was like why, I'm not wanted here any longer," Weitezel said.

She didn't want her son to appear on camera, but described him as an active 12 year old with a passion for dirt bikes and NASCAR.

Weitezel says he interacts well with his non-special needs classmates, which is why she wants him in public school.

As the program closed, she says administrators recommended she send her son to a non-public program in Granite Bay, a 45-minute drive for her.

"We just have not been able to locate a teacher this year for the remainder of the year, so we had to decide what was best for the kids," said Michelle Gibbs, president of the Colfax School Board.

Superintendent Carolyn Nichols wouldn't talk to us on camera but referred us to Gibbs, who explained the statewide teacher shortage made it tough to find anyone for the SDC program.

"We were trying for a year to get someone in there," said Gibbs.

When asked if the school considered keeping the program running under a temporary teacher until a permanent replacement was found, as opposed to shutting SDC down altogether, Gibbs said that is a question for the Superintendent.

Weitezel says if the school was looking for a permanent fix for a year, she should've been informed.

"If I had known the program was already in jeopardy I would've never enrolled my child," said Weitezel.

Some parents have already found new schools for their kids. Until Weitzel finds an alternative, her son will be at home.