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classroom

Parent calling on Governor to resume small, in-person classes for kids with special needs

by Anne McCloy Friday, May 22nd 2020

ALBANY NY (WRGB) – The cancellation of in-person summer school devastating for a mom whose child has special needs.

Governor Cuomo’s announcement Thursday caused a lot of parents to reach out to us explaining the impacts.

“Last night when I received the message from my son’s teacher, I broke down and I cried.”

CBS 6 viewer Nicole Nelson has kept her kids home and out of daycare since the shutdown began in March, but she was hopeful the state would resume programs her 4-year-old son Billy relies on this summer. Billy is on the autism spectrum.

“My son has been out of services since we went “on pause” in March and that’s going to be a full 6 months of doing Zooms and virtual therapy and that doesn’t really work for him so it’s just totally devastating,” Nelson said.

Nicole Nelson was hopeful the state would resume programs her 4-year-old son Billy relies on this summer. (WRGB PROVIDED

The cancellation of in-person summer school also meant the cancellation of Billy’s Individualized Education Program, which is specialized for each student and helps with speech and other needs.

“My son has been receiving services since he was 6-months-old so for services to just stop in-person its caused a great regression,” Nelson said.

Day care is still allowed, considered an essential business. The Office of Children and Family Services says 70 percent of the state’s day cares are still up and running. Nelson says it doesn’t make sense to her why a day care can stay open, but her child’s small class with 6 kids, two teachers and 1 aid can’t resume with social distancing measures.

“The only reason we would even consider putting our son into school is because it’s just a smaller classroom, less people and if you did it the right way you can do it safely,” Nelson said.

The cancellation of in-person summer school also meant the cancellation of Billy’s Individualized Education Program, which is specialized for each student and helps with speech and other needs. (WRGB PROVIDED)

She’s says if she could speak to Governor Cuomo she would ask him to re-consider opening special needs programs.

“Not all children are alike and some kids needs more than other kids do,” Nelson said.

Day cares are operating under guidelines set forth by the NYS Department of health and the CDC.

For parents who need childcare as New York State reopens, an OCFS spokeswoman sent CBS 6 links that help parents find day cares that are open near them:

Database here: https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/childcare/looking.asp

‘Your Child Is So Lucky To Have You As A Parent’: Local Special Education Teacher Writes Pandemic Parenting Guide

By Brenda Waters | May 21, 2020 at 7:56 pm

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s been a rough few months for parents. Schools, parks, playgrounds — all closed.

For many parents during the age of COVID-19, home is now the classroom, the office and the center of entertainment.

Dr. Rachel Schwartz, a special education teacher and consultant for the Watson Institute has written an article called “Thoughts for Families in a Hard Time.” She went over a few points with KDKA’s Brenda Waters.

“Connect” was at the top of the list. She says when things get tough people tend to want to pull in, grit their teeth and bear it. But she says that’s not a good idea. She says parents need to reach out — to other resources, to the community, to their church.

“Routine” is another point.

“The routine is that we live our life following routines, all of us do. Our children have routines and now with covid, all of that was blown out of the water. Now we need to establish a new routine.”

Dr. Schwartz says parents also need to focus on what is most important at the moment and if you children act out, don’t take it personally, they too are dealing with difficult times.

The next one may be a little tough and that is “relax.” But that’s what Dr. Schwartz wants parents to adhere to the most.

“You are everything your child needs. Your child is so lucky to have you as a parent, you are giving them love, the best academia, all of the things they need right now,” she says.

Dr. Schwartz says she wanted to make these points now during National Mental Health Month.

Experts caution ‘covid slide’ looming for children out of school

Laura Jarrett and Yon Pomrenze, CNN Published: 

CNN – The first-grader was finally getting to grips with reading. He’d made “enormous progress,” said his special education teacher Jill Marangoni, who’d spent months working with him in New York. But then coronavirus closed the schools.

Seven weeks later, “he’s forgotten a lot of his sight words,” Marangoni told CNN. “He is already back to those very basic reading skills where he’s having to sound out every word. It’s disappointing to see because he will be moving onto second grade next year and he’s now going to be nearly two years behind.”

The big fear is that the annual “summer slide” could supercharge the loss of learning for students having a hard time keeping up with their education in the lockdowns.

The ‘double whammy’

In interviews with CNN, experts said academic losses could be particularly problematic for grade school students who should be in the process of laying critical foundations of reading, writing, and math skills that should be built on for years to come — potentially robbing a generation of students of vital stages of learning.

LAKEWOOD, COLORADO - MARCH 17: Eight-year-old Indi Pineau, a 3rd grader in Jeffco Public Schools, works on doing her first day of online learning in her room at her family"u2019s home on March 17, 2020 in Lakewood, Colorado. Jeffco Public Schools implemented a remote learning and work plan where teachers, students, and staff will educate and learn from home with online programs for an unknown period due to COVID-19.(Photo by  RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, COLORADO – MARCH 17: Eight-year-old Indi Pineau, a 3rd grader in Jeffco Public Schools, works on doing her first day of online learning in her room at her family”u2019s home on March 17, 2020 in Lakewood, Colorado. Jeffco Public Schools implemented a remote learning and work plan where teachers, students, and staff will educate and learn from home with online programs for an unknown period due to COVID-19.(Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images) (Copyright – 2019 The Denver Post, MediaNews Group.)

“It’s kind of a double whammy of starting to forget and losing that kind of academic mindset of being out of school, and missing out on a couple of important months of instruction,” said Megan Kuhfeld, a research scientist at the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Collaborative for Student Growth Research Center.

“Come fall … teachers may have students in their classrooms who are grade levels apart in their learning.”

Using existing data on learning loss typically seen in the summer from a national sample of over five million students in grades three through eight, Kuhfeld and her colleague, Beth Tarasawa, predict that extended school closures could potentially cause serious academic setbacks for students struggling to adapt to remote instruction. In a worst case scenario, they may retain only 70% of the gains they had made in reading and only 50% of the gains made in math.

Math could be a particular sticking point, Kuhfeld said.

“It appears that math is something that parents don’t feel as comfortable doing with their kids,” she said. “We find that math is often something that parents view as the school’s domain to instruct students on. So typically, when school is out, math just happens less in the home than reading.”

Teachers and parents told CNN that their children are struggling to learn at home — especially those with special needs or those who are used to interventions that depend on hands-on instruction.

“Their written language is really taking a hit right now,” said Marangoni, whose case load includes students in first through fifth grade. “Fifth graders that were strong writers in school, who would never have turned in anything without editing it first — you see what the work they’re turning in. It’s missing capitals, it’s missing punctuation, run on sentences — just lacking that quality that they had at school and that they just don’t have now.”

Beth Scott, a mother of two, said she worries about her 8th grade daughter, who has dyslexia, keeping up with her peers.

“It’s hard for her to focus on her own without having someone there to kind of guide her,” Scott said. “Even though she has made great strides through the last five or six years … she will be behind again. I feel like it kind of takes us back a little bit to several years ago, when we had just this year entered all mainstream classes and now she’s trying to keep up.”

And it’s not only parents and teachers who are worried — children know that virtual learning isn’t necessarily cutting it.

“I had a second grader say to me, ‘Miss M, do you think I’m going to be allowed to go to third grade?'” Marangoni recalled. “‘Um, am I doing OK? Am I going to be allowed to go to third grade?'”

Educators said that students with resources are struggling to focus at home, but lower income kids are suffering the most right now.

“The inequities that we already were dealing with — that we already knew about — Covid is compounding all of these inequities,” said Sarah Crichton, who teaches US history to 11th graders.

She said her students in Brooklyn, New York, have had parents sick with coronavirus and have had to take care of younger siblings, or initially didn’t have access to a computer or continue to deal with spotty Wi-Fi — all making effective distance learning impossible. “We’re not trying to add additional stress to their lives right now.”

In other words, the “covid slide” has the potential to widen the inequality gap in achievement if meaningful steps to disrupt the status quo aren’t taken, experts caution.

Slowing the slide

Kufeld and Tarasawa at NWEA said they hope their research on potential learning losses will offer insights to think through ways to mitigate the effects of extended school closures right now.

In their paper released in April, they recommend that “policymakers, educators, families, and communities should further their work to provide support, especially in mathematics, to students while school is disrupted.”

NWEA has also gathered a number of tools and resources for parents to use at home — everything from free reading courses to free access to math textbooks.

Teachers said while they are concerned about their students during this challenging time, they are prepared to rise to the challenge come fall.

“It’s always been the case that when we start school in September, we have students that have lacked some prerequisite skill,” said Crichton, “but the teachers in my school — I think already have a lot of experience in trying to bridge those gaps the best we can.”

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