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Special education in the midst of a pandemic

Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 4:07 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - School starts for kids in the Eau Claire Area School District on September 1, and with that will come a new set of challenges amid the pandemic for the district's 1,800 special education students.

“We’re trying to ensure kids are learning everyday, that is kind of the main thing, everyday we want kids to learn,” says Special Education Teacher at Putnam Heights Elementary School Lindsey Anderson.

Teaching special education during the COVID-19 pandemic will be a challenge for teachers this year, especially having to teach some sessions virtually which they had not done before the pandemic.

“One of the changes in special education is that we as a school district will be delivering our services within the blended learning model,” says ECASD Special Education Director Mandy Van Vleet. “Those are two days in person and three days of remote learning, or all virtual depending on what the families chose.”

“A lot of different challenges are coming up, but the good thing is we get to look at things a whole new way and in special ed especially,” says DeLong Middle School Special Education Teacher Dustin Hayes.

Hayes and Anderson say following safety protocols will be key in making sure all students stay safe.

“Spacing obviously and proximity to students,” Hayes says. “What we can do as far as us for PPE and for kids for PPE so we can help out and make sure we can still provide services.”

“Before they move to any other area in the classroom we would make sure that they wash their hands and sanitize their desk and everything,” Anderson says.

She also says adapting to virtual classes is a big obstacle for students with special needs.

“We do have kids that are here two days and then home for three days, we do have kids that are here four days a week, and then we have kids that are 100% virtual,” Anderson says. “Teachers are kind of pushing their boundaries of what they are used to.”

Hayes says another obstacle is the requirement for students to wear masks, and for some, that will not be possible.

“Maybe that is a sensory thing that they can’t keep that on or it limits their ability to communicate with us, we’re going to work around that and figure out ways to help them,” Hayes says.

But even with uncertainty surrounding the upcoming school year, Hayes says he is excited to get his students back in the classroom.

“We want to see those kids in as much as they want to be here, we really miss having them in.”

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