Special Education Chek-In Followup and Recommendations

April 28th 2020, we held our first bi-weekly Special Education Check-In. It was a follow up from the Roundtable on Special Education held on April 6th 2020 and we discussed:

When we first had our roundtable, we were three weeks into self-isolation and learning at home. No one was sure if this was how things were going to be for a short term, or what things would look like even a month later.

Summary

We have moved from this being a short term, to a much longer term situation. Schools are officially closed until May 31st, 2020, but based on all the data of what would need to happen for schools to reopen, there is no way that target will be hit this school year.

We need to move from reactive short term planning to proactive medium term planning. We need to ensure that all students who need accommodations, have those accommodations. We need to ensure that all teachers who have students with accommodations reach out to parents and ensure that those students are accommodated. And most importantly, those students who normally have access to an Educational Assistant (EA) have continuous access to that EA. EAs need to be fully part of the teaching plans, and fully engaged with teachers and students.

After a rich discussion, we came up with a further set of recommendations for the Ministry of Education and the various school boards to consider to decrease the stress and anxiety of parents and students.

Recommendations

We need a well considered plan for the next 3 phases of education

  • The remainder of the school year (May/June)
  • The summer (July/August)
  • The first term of school next year (Sept-December)

In order to do this, school boards and teachers need a pause so that:

  • teachers can be trained on use of virtual technology
  • teachers, educational assistants and support staff an opportunity to work out plans together for the remainder of the school year and ensure they are connecting and supporting children who need accommodations.
  • IT staff can work on implementing best practices for virtual technology that utilizes as few different learning platforms as possible.
  • boards can come up with new policies that will allow visual supports for students, while also respecting privacy and security concerns.
  • board administration can properly plan out resources for remainder of school year, summer options as well as planning different contingencies for the fall term
  • school administration can properly plan and schedule IPRC and transition planning meetings with parents, and not push them off into the next school year.

There needs to be a clear educational goal for each time period. The normal educational goals are not the goals of this current time period, and we need to rethink what the purpose of education needs to be right now, and in the short term.

And most importantly, all students who normally have access to an Educational Assistant (EA), must have access to that EA to support them at home, and that EA must be involved with the teachers so that students can be properly supported to the best of their abilities.

Next Steps

I will be meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Education to discuss the recommendations that parents, professionals and educators have been making over the last 2 months.

We will be having ongoing Special Education Check-ins every 2 weeks. Next one is scheduled for Tuesday May 12th, at 10am.

The Special Education Pandemic Caregivers Survey is running until May 15th. Please fill it out and share with other parents. I will be posting the results of that survey the following week.

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