School board weighs special-needs care overhaul - FOX 13 News

School board weighs special-needs care overhaul

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The deaths of two young girls have highlighted a major problem within the Hillsborough County public school system, and officials Tuesday will begin working on big changes.

District officials will present new recommendations to the school board that call for better trained aides, new technology on special needs buses and improved communication about student health needs.

The changes have come to light after the deaths of Isabella Herrera and Jennifer Caballero.

LINK: Read about Caballero's case

LINK: Read about Herrera's case

The report also lists procedures that would shore up the training of personnel on school buses. It directs staff to call 911 in an emergency when a cell phone is available. That did not happen in Hererra's case.

Also, instead of assigning year-round bus routes based on seniority, the report recommended looking for ways to give special needs students the same well-trained drivers all year.

Electronic data files would be kept on the bus, and they would keep drivers up to date on each child's special medical needs.

The report also suggests principals should take part in the training of aides, with some training happening at the beginning of the school year or on early release days.

Training issues came under fire after Caballero, who had Down syndrome, wandered away from a crowded gym class and drowned.

There were six aides on duty. Five have been suspended pending an investigation. The sixth was out of the room when Caballero disappeared.

The report also recommends a bonus plan for teachers who work with the students. Some of these workers earn as little as $11,000 per year.

Work on finding solutions is expected to continue throughout the remainder of the school year.

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