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Facing shortage of speech language pathologists, Ocean View district contracts with Irvine company

Facing a shortage of speech language pathologists, the Ocean View School District has approved a contract with a private language company to help fill a gap after an employee's recent resignation.

In a unanimous vote this past week, the board of trustees decided that Oak View Preschool in Huntington Beach will use services from Irvine-based Pacific Coast Speech Services for the rest of the 2016-17 school year.

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A speech language pathologist resigned from Lake View Elementary School, but the contracted employee will be designated at the preschool because it has only one speech language pathologist, said district Assistant Supt. Felix Avila. Speech language pathologists are placed where they are needed most, he said.

Speech language pathologists assist students in a variety of ways. Some help them work on pronunciation of words, while others help implement classroom objectives with students who require one-on-one assistance, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn.

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In the past three school years, the Ocean View district has contracted for services from a variety of companies, including Pacific Coast Speech Services and Expressions Speech-Language of Garden Grove.

Currently, there are 14 full-time speech language pathologists for the district's two preschools and 15 elementary and middle schools that serve Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Westminster and Midway City.

Contracting with Pacific Coast Speech Services will not cost more than $89 per hour for a speech language pathologist or more than $47.50 per hour for a bilingual SLP assistant. Money for the service will come from the district's special-education fund, Avila said.

Asked whether contracting would result in more spending than employing a full-time speech pathologist, Ocean View board President Gina Clayton-Tarvin said a cost analysis would have to be done.

By the end of the school year, the district will discuss how to proceed with permanent staffing, she said.

As of late, the state has faced a shortage of speech language pathologists due to a limited number of openings in graduate school programs, Clayton-Tarvin said.

In the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, six speech language pathologists are employed this school year, said Annette Franco, district spokeswoman.

The Huntington Beach Union High School District has 12, according to Douglas Siembieda, director of special education.

Districts that face difficulty filling positions often contract with private companies to avoid overworking speech language pathologists.

"It's not good for students when you have an employee serving more kids than they should," Clayton-Tarvin said. "So when we go above that limit and we need these people, we go to these outside agencies."

Twitter: @VegaPriscella

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