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Poll reveals half of parents unconvinced that school is safe for their children’s return

Michael Savage | Sun 24 May 2020 02.41 EDT

Teachers’ union leader warns situation ‘untenable’ as health officials say track and trace system has been left too late

An empty playground at Milton St. John’s Primary School in Mossley, Greater Manchester.
 An empty playground at Milton St. John’s Primary School in Mossley, Greater Manchester. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Parents are divided over the prospect of sending their children back to school, a new poll has revealed, as parent groups warned that mixed messages and poor communication had caused widespread anxiety about returning.

With school leaders still grappling with the practicalities of reopening primary schools for some year groups in just a week’s time in England, an Opinium poll for the Observer found that 43 per cent of primary school parents and 54 per cent of secondary school parents feel anxious about the prospects of returning.

Primary schools have been instructed to prepare to bring back reception, year 1 and year 6 classes, as well as their early years provision. However, councils of all political colours have suggested they will not follow the advice, while Welsh and Scottish schools will wait to reopen.

There are now also concerns that the return of pupils has become such a chaotic issue that it could worsen the attainment gap between affluent and poor areas and families. Some teaching unions have suggested the families of vulnerable children have been more reluctant to see them return to school. David Laws, the former education minister who now oversees the Education Policy Institute, said that a widening divide was a “significant risk”

John Jolly, chief executive of the parent group Parentkind, said there was confusion about the reopening of schools. “Parents are looking for certainty,” he said. “Some want the certainty of saying schools are safe and we’re going back. Some want the certainty of keeping children out of school until there is a vaccine, which may reflect families with underlying conditions. Then you have other parents that want a clear timeline.

“Parents are not convinced about messages around schools being safe. They are not sure about that message from the government, or that the evidence for that is being communicated. There is a lot of uncertainty about the message being communicated by schools locally.”

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, warned the situation on the ground was now “chaotic and increasingly untenable”. “Not only are school leaders having to think about how to reopen schools, but how they convince parents that their children should go back, and organise the school site. Then they don’t know how many staff they will have. Schools are vital for society. But they have to be safe.”Advertisement

However, professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said schools should be allowed to reopen. “Covid-19 generally barely affects children and young people and actually we’ve shown that they are about half as susceptible,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “There is no doubt in my mind for children themselves, the balances are clearly in favour of going back to school.” He said the risks to family and the community could be managed with an effective track and trace system and a phased return.

While a working track and trace system is seen as necessary for rules around schools and other parts of the lockdown to be loosened, several local government sources warned that councils were now facing a race against time. There have been complaints that local public health officials have been sidelined during the pandemic, despite their expertise. They are now being drafted in as part of several pilots of the track and trace system, but insiders warn they now face huge time pressures.

Professor Donna Hall, head of the New Local Government Network, said: “At the beginning of March, public health directors were quite rapidly cut out of the national pandemic response. They are there for all aspects of public health, working on things like HIV, hepatitis, pandemic flu. Disease control is their job. They are highly skilled … but they’ve been cut out in quite a strange way.

“Other countries have deployed local resilience forums for testing and tracing. A national contact centre is never going to get to the granular detail you need for contact tracing. I’ve been out with the people who do it – they are forensic. You won’t get that through an app. It is people on the ground, observing how a disease spreads. It could be from a petrol pump or a salt shaker. That’s the kind of detail needed.

“They may be piloting things, but we’ve left it really late for that. Not giving local government a big role is foolish and dangerous.”

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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 offer advice to help parents ‘manage the meltdowns’ during time at home with kids

by Ashley Gooden | Monday, May 18th 2020

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBMA) — Since school has been out, many children have started to grow anxious and irritable with having to stay at home so much. ABC 33/40 is getting help from experts to help manage the meltdowns.

Kiara Harris is the parent of a 5 year-old, and as you can imagine, her son, Noah, is getting a little antsy staying at home.

“We’re accustomed to going to jump parks or to indoor playgrounds and he doesn’t quite understand why he can’t go outside and play on the playground and he’s made a few comments like he misses school or he wants to have fun this weekend. So, it’s been really odd for both of us because he can’t get out the energy he’s accustomed to getting out,” says Harris.

Things are a little odd for most parents right now… Many kids are more irritable, and it’s not their fault.

“I feel bad that there isn’t that much we can do,” says Harris.

Doctors say there are a couple of things parents can do while at home like noticing if the irritability is coming from them or the child, and also realizing changes in behavior that are out of the ordinary.

“For most children what you’re going to be noticing is a normal reaction to the circumstances, basic support, finding ways to help them cope, creating activities, help them find ways to creatively stay in touch with their friends,” says Dr. Dan Marullo, a psychologist at Children’s of Alabama.

Marullo says tummy aches, headaches, and other aches and pains can be a sign of emotional distress.

Dr. Amin Gilani, a psychiatrist associated with Brookwood Baptist Medical Center says now more than ever your children are watching you to see how they should behave.

“There will be long term consequences of the isolation, social distancing, the whole pandemic thing, and parents are consuming all the news from all of the sources and the amount of stress and amount of reaction parents are going through will determine how badly their kids will be effected,” says Gilani.

Gilani also recommends paying attention to how much your child is online, he says there should be a maximum of 4 hours spent in front of a screen.

He mentions there could be much difficulty for children, when it comes to heading back to school.

“So it’s going to be an extreme level of emotion. Some kids will be too happy and some will be too scared and that is not a good sign. I would be very careful and talk to your kids, be like hey I know we had a long break, we didn’t go outside, but in the august, you may have to go back to school,” says Gilani.

If you’d like an additional resource to help walk you through how to cope with difficulties you may be facing at home with your children, you can call Children’s of Alabama’s free confidential phone response center that links adult callers to mental health resources for children and teens.

That number is 205-638-PIRC (7472).

Teaching Special Ed during COVID19

By Paula Marie Naranjo | April 14,2020 | Edited on May 2,2020

 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted by the 101st United States Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on October 30, 1990. It was first introduced in the Senate as S.1824 by Senator Tom Harkin (D.IA) on October 31, 1989. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a law that makes appropriate public education eligible to children with disabilities free throughout the nation and ensures special education services to all who qualify. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 6,964,424 children with special needs were served in the 2017-2018 school year. Although every year the enrollment rate continues to rise, the sad truth is that many children still slip through the cracks. 

  There are so many obstacles educators in general must overcome during this day and age. From social media to no support from parents these educators are underpaid and overworked. I had the privilege finding out first hand some of the work it takes to educate. I have one general ed and two special ed students that I must get help guiding them through their curriculum. Even with modified work it’s a feat I am sadly struggling with. But if you can imagine your child’s teacher modifying all the work to fit this new teaching model for 10-20 students. Special education is an uphill battle all by itself, but throw in COVID 19 lockdown and you very well may have a mountain to climb. A few teachers from San antonio schools took the time to answer my questions on teaching through COVID19. 

woman in black long sleeve shirt using laptop computer

How has this new teaching model been working for the students?

Melissa  “It’s working as well as can be expected, but that’s all because of parent communication. Having great parent communication makes any type of education easier.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos “The Majority of my students are struggling with the virtual model.”

JC “It has been a struggle.  I work with the high needs population (ALE/Lifeskills) so it has been rather difficult for my students and their families.  We, the SpEd staff, are trying to provide resources and tools to best fit the needs for our students and their families, but some accommodations/modifications/behavior needs are difficult for us to find virtual/digital ways to help.”

The new teaching model ( virtual classroom) for general education seems to be working well for most students and teachers. Special education is one of the exceptions to the rule. Most teachers spend long summer months preparing how they can modify the work and use the classroom and staff as tools to help the child. Unfortunately, with the child being at home they will lack the support, guidance and emotional structure the teacher and paraprofessional offer.

What are some of the challenges your students are facing?

Melissa  “Motivation or anxiety- but that’s all students, sped or non-sped. It’s like starting high school all over again. It’s new/different and scary.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos  “Students are facing difficulties due to less one to one instruction and getting easily frustrated due to the lack of support.”

JC  “Using technology alone can be a struggle for some of my students.  Other students need constant support to stay focused on tasks.  Other students need frequent breaks and guidance to come back to work.  Parents are busy and stressed with other activities, so this can be a difficult situation.”

Many parents I spoke to said that they are noticing that the child is having a hard time separating home and school time while being at home. Most children with special needs have lots of tools such as communication devices, interactive schedules, and other therapy strategies in place by a professional to support them in school. Most parents don’t have the training or resources to provide the same environment that would benefit the child. 

What methods have you used that work for your students?

Melissa  “Parent communication and positive motivation!”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos “Calling them a few times a week, emailing them, adding positive comments , reducing work.” 

JC “Choice boards on different levels.  Short video conferences with students to say hello.  Sending home behavior charts for parents to use and walking them through step by step how to use them (ex: student answers 1 question, they get 1 star, after 4 stars they get a break).”

Most teachers have 1-20 years of experience that I’ve spoken to and they see that they must continue to modify and reduce the amount of work they are providing the student. This can be good in the sense that the child doesn’t lose confidence in themselves if they can’t complete the work. On the other hand it delays their progress and most teachers are noticing the children regressing. 

black iphone 5 on red textile

How are you coping with this new teaching model?

Melissa  “Teaching is about adaptability. If you can’t adapt, you probably shouldn’t be teaching. That sounds harsh, but every group of kids is different. You can’t expect next year’s group to be like your group from three years ago.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos  “I’m overwhelmed with the amount of work that goes into one lesson using different platforms and still being accountable with calling parents, holding ARDS , joining in on weekly department and faculty meetings, tutorial group meetings with students, grading, creating lessons, updating IEP progress reports, filling contact logs for both parents and students and learning new virtual learning platforms.”

JC “I have a master’s degree in technology so the curriculum part isn’t difficult.  I miss my students though.”

Most teachers concur with Irma Valdez-Cevallos in feeling overwhelmed as well as apprehensive in the fact that their students may be left way behind in the learning curve. Every teacher i spoke to expressed a feeling of sadness in missing their students. 

Has it increased your workload and can you give me examples?

Melissa  “The workload is the same for SPED- it’s just processed differently. Instead of leaving the classroom for small group help, we’re setting up an alternate virtual classroom. Instead of stickers and physical goodies like pencils, I’m awarding ClassDojo points and positive parent text messages.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos  “I’m spending 8- 9 hours on the computer!”

JC  “In some areas yes.  In other areas no.  For instance I am not teaching my kids 7 hours a day, however, I am documenting more and sending out more information than prior.  I am creating digital content that I haven’t in the past – so that has been a challenge.”

Creativity is what comes to mind when teachers explain to me how they are modifying the curriculum. Many are building apps, computer programs and repurposing classroom tools to think outside the box and fill a need for new ways of teaching.

photography of school room

How will this work factor into the students final grade?

Melissa “If you have high expectations for any student, they will rise to the occasion. People forget that not all SPED is students with intellectual disabilities. Some students have extremely high IQs but behavior,l or emotional difficulties. Autistic children are on a spectrum, so the IQ varies by subject for some lower functioning students. Think Rain Man!”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos  “I have modified and customized what each student will turn in so they will pass based on the work they submit.”  

JC  “I honestly am not sure about this and I do not like to speculate.  However if you email me later, I am sure I will have a clear answer once my administration sets these guidelines”

With a little over 6 weeks left in the school year, many parents worry if COVID 19 will hold their child back from meeting goals. Most states waived their state standardized testing. I reached out to the IDEA School District but didn’t receive a response on how final grades will be factored. One thing is for sure, this school year will be one to remember.

Have you heard if you have a return to work date?

Melissa  “No return to work date. Basically May is summer as normal.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos “So far May 4th-” 

JC  “Right now we are set to return early May, however, I am unsure if we will actually return at all.”

What tools or resources do you have for parents that are struggling?

Melissa “Knowledge on the go has Wit & Wisdom open resources, and Eureka Math. Prodigy math is an amazing online math/fantasy gaming platform. BrainPop! Is free right now!”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos   “Provides laptops and WiFi, breakfast and lunch for students, inform parents of the food bank at our district office for weekly pickup.”

JC “Stay in contact with your teacher – we are here to help.  I am providing lots of resources from Temple Grandin, Autism Educators, and other resources.  I am trying to set up a classroom and SpEd google meets – to where kids can converse with each other to give mom a break.”

Parents across the US are searching for resources to help their children. Many parents lack the educational background to know where to begin to properly help their child. These educators were kind enough to share some of their tools.

man with backpack beside a books

How can we as parents, help our children with special needs, stay on track per their IEPs?

Melissa  “Love and patience. Just remember that this is different for all of us and we are all “into the unknown” to quote Elsa.”

Irma Valdez-Cevallos “Understanding what the student is actually capable of accomplishing and  encouraging them  to increase to their full potential. Monitor them. Ask questions.”

JC  “Be aware of what your child’s goals are. See if you can find anything around the house to help build that awareness/skill/knowledge. Take pictures of their growth/them doing work.”

After going over their responses it was clear that this career is for the strong minded and dedicated. I’ve been told of the long and stressful hours left awake trying to help parents find resources that will help their child understand and master the lesson. Some are going as far as training the parents and then having a live video chat so they can support the child and the parents. Many expressed they are acting in place of social workers by finding food banks, free infant products and also buying supplies to help the student from their own pocket. I have had teachers on social media offer anyone help no matter what school the student goes to at no cost, knowing they already have so much on their plates.  

  These three women and countless others are not only educators but dedicated professionals and pillars of our community. When COVID 19 ceases to be nothing but history I hope we don’t soon forget how important our educators are to our future. I sincerely hope congress can find a way to better fund the schools and give these educators a well deserved salary raise to better support or future leaders of the world.

A special thank you to Melissa for helping me get the questionnaire to her colleagues, and to Irma , and JC for taking the time to answer all my questions. I appreciate their candid and informative answers. 

Have a story, experience, or recipe you want to share with our readers. Feel free to email me at throughlovewelearn@gmail.com



Actions Overview S.1824 — 101st Congress (1989-1990)

National Center for Education Statistics


Digest of Education Statistics table 204.50.

New Reports on Virus in Kids Fuel Uncertainty on Schools

By Jason Gale and Thomas Mulier | April 30, 2020, 6:30 AM CDT Updated on 

Children with the new coronavirus may be as infectious as adults, according to a study from Germany that stoked confusion over kids’ role in the pandemic.

Levels of virus in the respiratory tract — the main route via which the pathogen is transmitted — don’t appear significantly different across age groups, Christian Drosten, director of the Institute of Virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, and colleagues found. They advised caution in reopening schools and kindergartens.

The findings add to a contradictory body of work over children’s response to Covid-19 and the role they play in its spread, with another report showing kids aren’t passing the virus to adults. The World Health Organization said Wednesday more research was needed on the topic.

“All we really know at this point is that with a small number of exceptions, children are mildly affected by this infection,” said Adam Finn, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Bristol and chairman of the WHO’s European Technical Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization. “What is much less clear is how often they get infection and how infectious they are to each other and to other people in their families.”

Children Don’t Pass Covid-19 to Adults, Report Indicates

For now, household transmission studies indicate that children are less likely to transmit Covid-19 to adults than the reverse, WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove told reporters in Geneva Wednesday.

Such observations may be “misunderstood as an indication of children being less infectious,” Drosten and colleagues said. They cautioned “against an unlimited reopening of schools and kindergartens in the present situation.”

Less Coughing

The most detailed pediatric data on Covid-19 from China showed 13% of confirmed cases had no symptoms, and when confirmed and suspected cases were combined, almost a third of children ages 6 to 10 years were asymptomatic.

It’s possible that because children typically get milder cases of Covid-19, they are less likely to spread the virus via coughing and sneezing, said Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies program.

While scientists have speculated about why few children get severely ill from Covid-19, no studies have explained the exact mechanism of this protective effect.

Have a story, experience, or recipe you want to share with our readers? Feel free to email me at throughlovewelearn@gmail.com

Return to school in children’s interests – Ofsted

By Katherine Sellgren | BBC News education reporter

It is in children’s interests to return to school “as soon as possible”, says the head of England’s schools watchdog, Ofsted.

Amanda Spielman told a panel of MPs home and online learning were “imperfect substitutes” for school.

But she acknowledged adult health and infection risk needed to be considered.

Ms Spielman also said she expected to see a rise in the number of children needing some form of social care in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amanda Spielman
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman spoke to MPs on Monday

Losing education

Last week, England’s Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said no date had been set for schools to reopen to pupils other than key workers’ children and those considered vulnerable – and certain thresholds in fighting coronavirus would have to be met.

Speaking at the Downing Street briefing on Monday evening, the UK’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said the reinfection rate, known as the R, was near to three when schools were closed to the majority of pupils in March and is now below one.

Prof Whitty said experts were currently trying to establish what the impact of children returning to school would be on the R.

“Whilst it remains the case we think that the contribution of children at school is probably less than, for example, for flu, we do think it certainly contributes.

“And what we’re trying to work out is what proportion of the R it [schools being open] contributes and therefore if children went back to school, how much closer to one – and that’s in a bad way – would we be and could it even tip us above one, and what we can do, if so, to try and minimise that.”

On Monday morning, Ms Spielman told the Education Select Committee: “We have to accept that what can be done while schools are substantially closed is a very poor substitute for full normal education.

“Children are losing education and it’s not just the children who are disadvantaged or academically behind, it’s children without motivations.

“And it would be unrealistic for anyone, including me, to expect the vast majority of children to have made the same progress they would have made if they’d been in school, which is why I truly believe that it’s in children’s interests to be back in school as early as possible.”

Ms Spielman acknowledged “children’s interests alone don’t dictate the decision”.

“There are decisions around adults, adult health and infection, there are decisions around medical provision – clearly, this is a balance that is not mine nor the Department for Education’s to make,” she said.

But she urged schools to plan for how they could best return to normal education and “making sure children feel that normality”.

The Ofsted boss said she did not expect inspections to resume before the end of the summer term and schools would not be judged on how they had educated children during the current crisis.

There were “clear expectations” around safeguarding, she said, but “no expectations from government on learning”.

“We need to recognise that education has been substantially disrupted and will continue to be disrupted for some period after schools reopen, given what we know about likely expectations around social distancing and shielding,” Ms Spielman said.

But, she added: “We need to make sure that parents get the assurance they need that schools are looking after their children properly and educating them well.”

Domestic violence

Generic image of a teenager looking out of a window
The Ofsted boss expects a rise in social care referrals

The social-care area of Ofsted’s work was “the very busiest at the moment”, Ms Spielman said.

“We have every reason to think this [pandemic] is putting more pressure on a lot of families – we’ve all seen the reports around increased domestic violence,” she said.

“We know some families will be under significant financial pressure – and financial strain does not help families’ situations.

“So, yes, it seems very likely that there will be more children needing social care.

“But at the moment referrals to local authorities are down, not up – many referrals come from schools.

“So my expectation, yes, it’s that there will be even more pressure on children’s homes [and] home placements [of children needing to be looked after by their local authority], as we come out of this.”

The chief inspector also took questions from MPs about unregistered schools, the sex and relationships curriculum and whether schools could study GCSE content over three years rather than the traditional two.

Mr Williamson is due to appear before the committee on Wednesday

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