There's a rising tide of special needs students flooding Rapid City Schools

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Three bills are on their way to legislature, they involve setting up a special education task force to grapple with the increase of qualified students and request additional funding.

Joan Pribyl is a special education teacher at General Beadle Elementary School. In the last two years, her classrooms have more than doubled in size.

Pribyl said, "When you have that increase in the number of students it's really hard to be in the classroom and be doing a pull-out group at the same time, and the needs of the students range from very very minimal to very significant."

While she's not alone, trying to teach 25 students, most days the needs outweigh the support.

"We have a lot of para support which is awesome but when you're working with kids with special needs children there needs to be a lot more training with those people," Pribyl said.

If the Special Education task force is enacted in Pierre, a group will be appointed by Governor Kristi Noem, to focus specifically on special education in South Dakota.

Right now the state uses something called an extraordinary cost fund which funds districts that don't have enough money to support special needs students.

Dr. Greg Gaden the director of special services for RCAS said, "You have a child with multiple impairments move into that district and the district is operating at level funding, no excess funding but they're obligated by law to contract for those services."

The problem - too many districts started requested money recently.

That's why the another proposed bill asks for additional funding, one student costs around $28,000.

Dr. Gaden said, "What we're finding in Rapid City and I think you would find across the country is we are seeing more kids with autism, and we're talking high full-blown autism, which requires more attention and additional staffing and additionally we're seeing more students with emotional disturbances, we're finding ourselves with more and more students with those emotional impairments."

Pribyl said it would be helpful if these bills passed because special needs students need new computer programs and additional support.