Prince William County

The following was among actions the Jan. 16 meeting of the Prince William County School Board. For more information, call 791-8720.

PROGRAM FOR HANDICAPPED STUDENTS -- The School Board approved guidelines for creating a regional board that will oversee programs in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park serving emotionally disturbed and handicapped middle and high school students. The three jurisdictions previously agreed on bylaws for establishing the regional program and the two cities are expected to give final approval to the plan within the next few weeks.

The move was spurred by financial incentives from the state, in which local jurisdictions will be reimbursed at a higher rate per student if they agree to share educational services for students with special needs.

In Prince William County, for example, the state's reimbursement has been a flat $2,600 per student. Under the new regional program, jurisdictions will be reimbursed based on a locality's ability to pay -- estimated at 62 percent of the cost per student for Prince William County (roughly double the current reimbursement level), 45 percent for Manassas and 75 percent for Manassas Park.

Apart from financial incentives for the jurisdictions, students and their parents will benefit from an ability to choose from a larger array of services that best suit their needs, according to Dr. Jane Razeghi, the program supervisor.

Local school districts will continue to have control of their own classes, teachers and staff. However, under the new plan students -- especially those in smaller jurisdictions where fewer special education services are offered -- could participate in a program offered by another jurisdiction.

Currently, some jurisdictions with limited services find it necessary to enroll students with special needs in residential and private daytime educational facilities, at the locality's expense.

Under the regional program, the cost of educating each student is estimated at $11,000 a year. In comparison, residential and private programs can cost $20,000 to $30,000 a year per student.

About 130 severely disturbed or multi-handicapped students in the county are enrolled in special programs. Manassas and Manassas Park have far fewer students with similar needs.

Initially, the same level of services as now available will be offered under the new plan, but it is hoped that the cost savings in each jurisdiction will make it possible to eventually expand the educational options.