Special education vs COVID-19, what is happening


Special Education teacher Caroline Cook helping freshman Cole Kostoryz with his assignment.

The student of the special education program have started coming back, but not without precautions and changes made. Transferring back to in-school learning is a challenge for anyone, but the special education program is figuring out how to make that work while keeping a safe environment.

Special education teacher Susan Barry explains; “Yes, we have had students come since Aug 5th.  They come on M, W, F for 2 1/2 hours a day”. Students returning to school are not back to normal, but it is bringing a little more normal to the students everyday lives. Normally in a special education classroom, they have bigger groups, but because of the different two and a half hour sessions, it splits the groups up right now to try and keep the students safer. 

While at the high school the students do follow the same guidelines for safety against COVID-19 as any other student will have to. “Our students are wearing masks and shields. They are socially distancing and washing hands often,” Barry clarifies. She adds “We do have a few students who are struggling to wear masks for sensory reasons. Most are fine with it.”

Before the pandemic, students in the program were able to go out and get experience with real-life job skills. Some would go off-campus and sometimes they would stay right on school grounds, in the puma den, however, “All of these activities have been put on hold. We always figure out other ways to do things, though. Instead, the students have been engaging in a ton of interactive activities that simulate community-based learning, work skills, and life skills. They are loving the new tasks,” Barry states.  

After learning that the CUSD plans on getting students back in school by mid-October, it is being discussed how that will look for the special education department. Special education department chair, Shara Billings clarifies; “Finally, In October, the plan is to return as the school board determined. Our staff is meeting for the next three weeks to discuss what that will look like for our specialized classes to meet the needs of every student in those classes. We are looking forward to seeing the students.”

There are still questions on how classrooms will be staying clean and safe for students, as it is a topic needed to be discussed more. Special learning disabilities teacher Jason Berg explains; “When it comes to the precautions, that’s a tough one to answer since we are preparing the best we can with the knowledge we have at our disposal.  As of now, we are going to keep the desks/student’s workspaces as clean as we can!”

This time is not easy for anyone, all students are trying to navigate through such an unpredictable time of learning. The students along with the special education department itself have not let the difficulty stand in their way. “Online learning can be challenging for our students.  They do better when learning face-to-face, but they have all been learning a lot about using the computer, email,  Google Classroom, and Meet.  Our students and their families have risen to the occasion. They all made it happen,” Barry explains.

Through all the challenges the year has brought the department is in hopes of bringing the best they can to their students.