Update from Special Education about connecting with your students

 A Message from Special Education

Dear families of students receiving Special Education services,

Yesterday our district announced the decision to open on Sept. 8 with remote learning. We know this raises many questions about what IEP services will look like for your children. We want to share our commitment to you as we reflect on our work this summer and plan for fall instruction.

We have met over the last several weeks with many teachers, specialists and administrators. Again and again we hear from our staff their deep yearning to work in-person with your children. It is not an overstatement to say that many are grieving the loss of connection that happens so much more naturally in-person than through a computer screen. Connecting with students is why our teachers and other staff went into this work and it hurts them to be separated. At the same time, we recognize the critical need to be safe and to protect the vulnerability of our students, staff and community.

As stated in Superintendent Greg Baker’s message yesterday, minimal in-person instruction will begin in Stage 2 of our Reconnect Plan, particularly for those students not responding well to remote instruction.

But before we can get back in-person, we know from staff and families that there were many successes and challenges this past spring. We want to build on the successes, sharing what worked well, while we improve and implement new strategies where, despite best intentions, we fell short.

Our planning is based on the following:

  1. We are committed to implementing IEPs to the maximum extent possible while adjusting delivery methods to comply with health and safety restrictions. We will be asking our staff to engage with you around what that looks like and how we can support you. We will be connecting with you in late August and early September.
  2. We are committed to increasing real-time (synchronous online) instruction and therapy with teachers, speech-language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists.
  3. We are committed to proactive, predictable communication that supports rather than overwhelms you.
  4. We are committed to our students being included in regular classrooms and activities to the maximum extent possible (if/when we can) while still meeting their instructional needs, whether virtual or in-person.
  5. We are committed to determining ways to serve some students in-person as soon as it is safe to do so. There is much to figure out on multiple levels including safety protocols, staffing, how we will determine which students and which services will be prioritized, as well as factors beyond our control such as overall COVID cases in the county and state. We are engaging in this work as a school district alongside community partners and health officials.
  6. We are committed to partnering with health officials to continue to monitor the latest scientific information about the virus, including its effects on individuals with disabilities.

There is much to do. As your special education administrators, we are working closely with principals, teachers and other staff to support your children. We ask for your grace, ideas and partnership as we go forward.

Mike Haberman, Special Education director
Bethany Verner, assistant director, Special Education
Analisa Ficklin, assistant director, Special Education