By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Public Schools has more than 9,000 special needs students on individual education plans. Many parents are worried their children won’t have adequate care if teachers go on strike.

Heather Bunch’s son, Gavin, has autism. He’s a kindergartner at Denver Green School, where several of his classmates also have special needs.

CBS4’s Tori Mason talks with Heather Bunch and her son Gavin. (credit: CBS)

“He is reading me stories and that wasn’t happening when he first got here,” said Bunch. “I have the teachers to thank for that.”

Bunch says Gavin’s performance is off when his teacher’s not in class. While she understands their decision to strike, Bunch worries absent teachers will undo their hard work.

“I support the teachers 100 percent, but I can’t just have a warm body in there. Gavin needs somebody who knows his program, knows what his behaviors are and is going to teach him. He can’t have a different person every day,” explained Bunch.

DPS says those worries are mutual.

“We have teachers who serve those students who are very concerned,” said Robert Frantum-Allen, DPS Director of Special Education.

DPS says they have enough qualified substitutes for the thousands of students who require special attention.

“I feel very confident that we have exceptional people who are our best of the best,” said Frantum-Allen of DPS’ guest teachers.

DPS Director of Special Education Robert Frantum-Allen (credit: CBS)

He says many of those substitutes are retired DPS teachers.

“They are excited to actually get back in the classroom and start working with students,” said Frantum-Allen.

DPS says they’ll do their best to ensure classes have a consistent guest teacher and ease parents’ worries. However, the district’s biggest concern is caring for students with the most significant needs.

“Some of our kids that we are serving are medically fragile. They have tube feedings or need to have their suction cleared out for breathing purposes,” said Frantum-Allen. “Safety first and foremost is going to be met, then we’ll see what we can do to get them to learn something.”

DPS says they’re prepared to bring in state-approved, outside providers for students with significant disabilities.

The district will also check in with schools daily, to make sure all needs are being met. If they aren’t, they’ll make adjustments if necessary.

Tori Mason