OCEANSIDE — After being in each other’s crosshairs, MiraCosta College and San Dieguito Union High School District appear to have reached a short-term agreement about the Adult Transition Program.
On Aug. 28, an email from San Dieguito to parents of students in the Adult Transition Program (ATP) stated that a “one-semester solution” had been forged by both organizations for students to access the Basic Academic Skills courses at MiraCosta, which are part of the college’s noncredit Adults with Disabilities Program.
The agreement came five days after parents were “regretfully” notified by San Dieguito’s Director of School and Student Services Tiffany Hazlewood that “SDUHSD will not be able to directly support our ATP student’s (sic) access to any of the Mira Costa courses this coming Fall.”
At the time of this writing, neither organization had returned calls or emails from The Coast News requesting information about San Dieguito’s previous withdrawal from the Adult Transition Program over issues with scheduling, aides and transportation.
Many parents were upset by San Dieguito’s initial decision to withdraw from the program, as revealed in correspondence released to The Coast News. The negative feedback could explain why both institutions forged an agreement to save the program after scrapping it at the start of the fall term.
Attorney and parent Lucile Lynch sent an email on Aug. 23 to San Dieguito’s board members and others, stating, “This has been an established community option for ATP [Adult Transition Program] students for a long time. The sudden elimination of this option seems unjustified especially since some students have MiraCosta courses in their IEPs [individualized education programs].”
Adult Transition is one component of San Dieguito’s special-education program. The district’s website states that the Adult Transition Program provides educational services to youth considered to be of transitional age (18 to 22 years old) who have completed four years of high school but have not received a high school diploma. The curriculum focuses on independent living, vocational skills and other areas based on individual needs.
The short-term solution for keeping the Adult Transition Program operable was short on details, including what the transportation plan would be. It was noted in the parent email that students could take the course independently until the district’s transportation and other supports could be finalized.
So why did San Dieguito pull out of the program to begin with? The Aug. 23 email from Hazlewood to parents had cited the class times of the Basic Academic Skills courses as an impediment to offering the program because they did “not correlate with the transportation needs and ATP school hours.”
The Basic Academic Skills classes start 10 minutes later than the last term, which made it difficult to see how those changes could make transportation and planning unfeasible.
But email correspondence from Hazlewood to an upset parent stated that the difference was more like 20 or 30 minutes because MiraCosta would not allow the students to be released early from class. That was never a problem in previous terms. The early dismissal — necessary for returning students to San Dieguito before the end of the Adult Transition Program day — got approved during the short-term solution.
The other reason for initially pulling out of the program had to do with changes to MiraCosta’s aide policies that, according to Hazlewood’s Aug. 23 notice, “halted our ability to send our SDUHSD staff to support students in Mira Costa classes.”
However, that appeared to contradict MiraCosta’s own policy stance, according to an internal email forwarded to The Coast News. Dr. Kate Alder, interim dean for behavioral sciences, history and adult education at MiraCosta, sent an email to faculty stating that aides or employees from San Dieguito “are welcome in the classroom while the paperwork is being finalized.”
Alder noted in that Aug. 20 message to faculty that agreements were in the process of being negotiated for four agencies, including San Dieguito.
It remained unclear at the time of this writing how San Dieguito got the impression that its aides were not allowed at MiraCosta, but the community college did roll out changes to its aide policy this summer that created confusion and frustration.
For example, Alder announced during a Basic Academic Skills class at the Oceanside campus on July 9 that certain aides who accompanied the students would no longer be approved as volunteers. She then told the aides, who worked for social agencies funded by the Department of Developmental Services, that they had to immediately leave the classroom. This was done in the middle of the summer term without advance notice to the students’ parents or conservators.
The vice president of San Dieguito’s board, Maureen “Mo” Muir, followed up on the last-minute announcement on Aug. 28 with a request that an information item be added to a future board agenda “about the educational opportunities, educational progression, and integration with the San Dieguito students and MiraCosta.” She requested that a MiraCosta faculty person present the information.
Muir’s email continued, “I think there has been lack of communication. It would be great to support our students, and to better understand the educational opportunities, that they have access to — now — and in the future.” Muir noted that in the four years she’s been on the board, there has never been a presentation from the district’s partner, MiraCosta College.