September 27th, 2019
EC department tackles new challenges entering semester
TUES. | 9-15-20 | NEWS
With a hybrid start to the fall semester, Rose’s Exceptional Children (EC) Department has been faced with new challenges in adapting to the split between face-to-face and virtual students caused by the coronavirus. The EC Department at Rose consists of approximately 200 students, of which the majority have decided to proceed fully remote.
In deciding to go remote, these students often had to consider pre-existing conditions that put them at a higher risk due to the virus, as well as sensory issues that may inhibit a student from wearing a mask during the day. Even at home, however, students with access to WiFi have been able to participate in their classes through school-provided Chromebooks and the applications such as Zoom.
“The students who are able to get on Zoom are doing so religiously,” EC Department chair Tonya Ebron said. “I have some that [are on Zoom] every day, and for the most part we Zoom just about every day unless I tell them otherwise.”
Even with the county’s distribution of technology, EC students are faced with challenges at home that inhibit their ability to fully engage in their activities. Of approximately 75% who have decided to precede fully remote, 50% claim to not have access to WiFi.
“There are a lot of concerns that we have as far as making sure our kids' needs are being met,” Ebron said. “We are doing everything within our power, with Zooms, providing hotspots, making phone calls.”
This issue has received community attention at both the local and state level, with advances made to aid these families in need. Considering this, there is growing support for some EC students to return fully face-to-face, in efforts for them to receive the best education possible.
“I think that more people are realizing as this continues on that these EC kids are going through a difficult time and this may not be the best situation for them,” Rose parent Christie Nuckolls, whose son is served by the EC department said. “If we can get them in school full-time, we should try.”
Many of the students in the EC department have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, which is defined as a social communication disorder. These students need the structure and consistency provided by in-person learning. The hybrid schooling, however, whether attending face-to-face one week or remaining remote, disrupts the structure that a regular school day would provide.
“It’s difficult for a kid to learn the routine and structure of the day when they aren’t going every day,” Nuckolls said. “It‘s difficult for typical kids because you are one week in and one week out, but for our EC kids where having that structure and sameness every day is really important; it’s twice as hard for them.”
Infographic by Murphy Fisher
In addition to difficulties caused by lack of routine, EC students that decided to attend face-to-face are dealing with various trials. Having to remain socially distant, these students are not able to engage in the necessary hands-on learning which inhibits the department from engaging in the full extent of their activities.
“Because our kids do have learning disabilities, a lot of what we do is hands-on. We are limited as far as how much we can do,” Ebron said. “I can’t get right up beside a kid for an extended period of time to observe what they’re doing, and I know that has got to be hurting them.”
Despite the many difficulties EC students are facing this year, both staff and parents acknowledge and are grateful for the effort exhibited by Rose and PCS administration to support the department.