USD 475 Special Education receives highest state recognition for third year in a row

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. — For the third year in a row, Geary County Schools USD 475 Special Education Department (SPED) has received the highest status level for the Kansas State Department of Education’s IDEA State Performance Plan Report for 2021.

The district earned this level of determination by substantially complying with all State Performance Plan district-level indicators, including timely submission of data accurately, effectively transitioning students from infant-toddler to early childhood and from high school to post-high school, and ensuring SPED students are not unfairly penalized compared to general students.

“What our staff is doing on a daily basis makes a difference and matters,” said Courtney Eichhorn, assistant director of SPED. “At the end of the day, someone is looking at it and someone is appreciating what they have done.”

This achievement reflects the hard work of the educators within the classrooms working with each SPED student, as well as the staff at the district level analyzing paperwork and ensuring everything is accurate.

“That’s really a reflection on the entire school district working together in order to make sure that our students are getting what they need, and it’s being done in a legal way,” said Nathan Downs, executive director of SPED.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, SPED has continued to provide Individual Education Plans for each of their over 1,500 students, focusing on ensuring their needs are met.

“We literally have from birth to age 21 with our students,” Downs said.

Additionally, Geary County Schools USD 475 is acknowledged worldwide for their SPED opportunities. By working with the U.S. Army’s Exceptional Family Member Program, many military families with special needs children are intentionally posted at Fort Riley because the district can meet their child’s needs.

“It’s a huge accomplishment, and that in and of itself is a huge compliment to our school district that the U.S. government feels they need to go to Fort Riley because USD 475 is going to take care of their kids,” Downs said.

The district’s SPED continues to focus on what is best for its students and staff and strives to constantly make their experience the very best it can be.

For inquiries, please contact Lindley Lund, Marketing and Media Specialist for Geary County Schools USD 475, at