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Exceptional Student Services

The Exceptional Student Services Department team is committed to the mission of empowering every student to be successful in college, career, and the community. The team serves to prepare our students for positive outcomes by ensuring inclusion and equity for students in our educational communities through ongoing data-driven multi-disciplinary collaboration and decision-making, intentional and individualized service provision and monitoring, and alignment with family and community partnerships through a multi-tiered system of support framework.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Students who are eligible for special education services will need an IEP as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) to ensure that students receive a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). An IEP is a written and living document that details a student’s individualized plan for learning. A student is found eligible through an evaluation process at the school level. The evaluation is conducted by a multidisciplinary team who has expertise in the student’s area(s) of need. This team can involve a special education teacher, general education teacher, school psychologist, speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, parent, social worker, or other identified support person. The evaluation may include formal testing, observations, Response to intervention (RTI) data, curriculum-based measures, and other types of assessment as determined by the team. Once the evaluation is complete, the multi-disciplinary team will meet to discuss the results and determine eligibility, using Colorado Department of Education (CDE) criteria, in the suspected disability category or categories. To what extent the student’s educational performance is adversely affected by the disability is a key consideration in the eligibility determination process.

Once a student is eligible for special education services, the team will design an IEP for the student using the results from the evaluation. The IEP contains several components that will support the student’s success with general education curriculum in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Most students in Durango School District 9-R with IEPs spend the majority of their school day in the general education classroom. The IEP will include following components and will be updated yearly:

  • Present Levels of Educational Performance
  • Accommodations and Modifications
  • Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Driven, and Time-bound

               annual goals.

  • Services to be provided by teachers and service providers
  • Least Restrictive Environment – the extent a student participates in the general education environment
  • For Students 15+: Transition Goals, Transition Services, Course of Study are added to the IEP to intentionally prepare for post-secondary success.

Parents or guardians will receive a final copy of the student’s IEP. The IEP team will provide a case manager to the student who will serve as the point person for the family as well as the coordinator of services and progress monitoring. The case manager will be either a special education teacher, early childhood special education teacher (preschool students), or speech and language pathologist, depending on the determined disability. IEPs are updated annually and reevaluations to determine continued eligibility happen at least every three years. However, a parent may request an IEP meeting at any time.

For more information on parental and child rights in special education as well as the eligibility criteria used by Durango School District 9-R, please visit the following Colorado Department of Education website:


The disability categories as outlined in IDEA and further defined with eligibility criteria by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is as follows:

Autism Spectrum Disorder


Developmental Delay

Hearing Impairment – Including Deafness

Intellectual Disability

Multiple Disabilities

Orthopedic Impairment

Other Health Impairment

Serious Emotional Disability

Specific Learning Disability

Speech or Language Impairment

Traumatic Brain Injury

Visual Impairment

Please see https://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/sd-main for complete definitions.

Please contact your school’s special education teacher, school psychologist, or Marcy Lawrence, Director of Exceptional Student Services 970-247-5411 Ext 1457 for further information on special education referrals and the evaluation process in Durango School District 9-R.

Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC)

The Special Education Advisory Committee focuses on the needs of students with disabilities. The committee is composed of parents of children with special needs, professionals, and community members. It serves in an advisory capacity to Exceptional Students Services. At monthly meetings, educational topics are presented that relate to special education and the needs of the community. The members often work on a product that will benefit the special education community. In the past, members have worked on informational presentations, gathering resources for the district website, fundraiser and recognition events, survey creation, etc. Meetings are open to anyone wishing to attend. Please see the Exceptional Student Services website or contact Exceptional Student Services at 970-247-5411 Ext 1456 for event dates and topics of discussion which are typically updated in August for the upcoming school year.

Child Find

Child Find is committed to supporting families through the process of identification, evaluation and continued appropriate services for children with possible delays. The child find team evaluates children who are ages 0-5, and also coordinates the identification and evaluation of children in private schools and preschools.


The Child Find team offers support and developmental screenings in the areas of speech/language, fine motor and gross motor skills, learning, hearing/vision and social and emotional adaptability at no cost to parents.  


The child find team works closely with early childhood special education staff to develop an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) with services and supports to address any developmental delays determined in the evaluation process.  All services are provided in our district preschool classrooms at no cost to parents/guardians. 

For local information contact:


Durango School District 9-R Child Find

Kathleen Lau

970.247.5411 ext. 1107



For more in-depth information please visit the Colorado Department of Education website at:


Assistive Technology



Assistive Technology (AT) is any tool that helps a student perform more effectively at home, school, work or play. For some students, AT provides them with equal access to learning and communication in the classroom, community, and beyond.


Students with disabilities that impact their oral or written communication (speaking, listening, reading, or writing), learning, social relationships, mobility, and active participation are potential users of AT.



SWAAAC stands for Statewide Assistive Technology, Augmentative and Alternative Communication. SWAAAC teams provide expert, multi-disciplinary Assistive Technology services to enable students full inclusion in all educational opportunities. The Durango School District 9-R is a participating member of the Colorado SWAAAC and has presented at their state-wide conferences.


 How can a Student ACCESS AT?

Any member of a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team may initiate a request for Assistive Technology based on the strengths, needs, goals, and services outlined in the IEP.  Durango School District has a loan bank as well as access to the SWAAAC loan bank of items to try with a student to determine best-fit and long-term success with AT. Members of our ESS team who specialize in AT will consult with a student’s IEP team to assist in this process as needed.

Psychiatric/Psychological/Behavior Testing Methods or Procedures 

School personnel are encouraged to discuss concerns about a student’s behavior with the parent/guardian, and such discussions may include a suggestion that the parent/guardian speak with an appropriate health care professional regarding any behavior concerns that school personnel may have. 

School personnel are prohibited under state law from recommending or requiring the use of psychotropic drugs for students. They are also prohibited from testing or requiring testing for a student’s behavior without giving notice to the parent/guardian describing the recommended testing and how any test results will be used. Prior to conducting any such testing, school personnel shall obtain written permission from the parent/ guardian or eligible student in accordance with applicable law. 

ESS Resource Request Form: When requesting district and community supports, please complete and send this form to Sam Tower at stower@durangoschools.org and copy Jessicalyn Lewis at jelewis@durangoschools.org.
Resource Documents