Tumwater School District gives differentiated instruction to 905 students, $1 million award grant directed to special education


Tumwater School District (TSD) has identified 905 students who currently receive differentiated or specially designed instruction. Executive Director of Special Services Chris Burgmeier reported the current state of TSD’s Special Services during a regular board meeting last Thursday, November 9.

 “What I'm super proud of in this district, of that 905 students, a majority of those students are in the general education setting the majority of the day,” shared Burgmeier.

 This means that 55% of TSD’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) students spend 80-100% of their school days on their core general education instruction.

 Individualized Education Plans

 This year is the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act requires schools to provide students with special needs specialized accommodations, aids, and services.

 Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) also provides special accommodations, section 504 differs because it requires specialized instruction to identified students through IEP.

 “Students with special education have been identified to need individualized plans for learning and receive differentiated instruction for that,” said Burgmeier.

 IEPs are designed for students aged 3-21 who qualify for these three criteria: eligible students must have a disability, experience an adverse educational impact because of this disability, and require differentiated instruction.

 Our district mission is no different for a student whether they are in a general education setting, have a 504, or have an IEP. The continuous learning piece is important for all of our kids,” added Burgmeier.

The Tumwater School District Board had their regular board meeting last Thursday, November 9, 2023.
The Tumwater School District Board had their regular board meeting last Thursday, November 9, 2023.

 Staff Support

 The district provides a specialized preschool with teachers and paraprofessionals to support young learners aged 3 to 5. All schools across the district also have resource teachers and paraprofessionals.

 Special program teachers are also assigned, in appropriate staffing-to-student ratio, to support those with very specialized needs, such as the medically fragile, autistic, and/or behaviorally challenged learners.

 “Across the district, we also have what we call ESAs, or Educational Support Associates, and these are all the people who fall under those specialized categories, like our speech-language therapists, occupational therapists who work on fine motor skills, a physical therapist who works with kids with large motor skills, school psychologists. We also have this year, for the first time, a board-certified behavior analyst,” shared Burgmeier.

 The district also has a braillist, a registered behavior technician, an audiologist, a teacher for the visually impaired, and orientation and mobility specialists.

 Learners aged 18-21 receive transition support wherein they obtain independence and adulthood skills before graduation.


 Last year, the district received a Digital Equity Grant to upgrade its technology inventory, purchase more iPads, and a comprehensive life skills instructional suite to educate learners with low-incident disabilities.

 The district also received its most significant award, amounting to $1 million, from the SafetyNet Annual Award scheme.

 “Another win in terms of funding is last year's SafetyNet award, a $1 million award which was reimbursement for a district for high needs cost that was more than the previous six years combined. It was a very large recouping for us,” added Burgmeier.


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