The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has parents across the country wondering if their children will fall behind in school. In New Mexico, most if not all school districts are following a virtual learning model to deliver instruction to students. The virtual learning models that I have seen use Google Classroom, and connect students to their teachers through a video portal. Students can turn in assignments online and their teachers can grade it and return through the same online portal. This model keeps both students and teachers safe by eliminating the need to have in person instruction and therefore limiting contact and in turn minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
While most school districts are solely using virtual learning methods, some districts have implemented a hybrid virtual learning model. This model groups students and staggers the days that they are in person at the school. Students may attend school for a few hours each day or attend school all day but only for a few days per week. The schedules vary and it does not limit contact as well as the fully virtual models of instruction.
Although both of these models have been in use in New Mexico, which model is best for children with special needs? Like anything in the world of special education that answer depends on the unique needs of the child. A provision of the Governor’s emergency order states that children with special needs who cannot have their educational needs met in the home are allowed to return to school to receive the special education supports and services that are designated in their IEP. Parents should be aware that even if they elect to send their children to school to receive services, some of those services could be implemented virtually even in the classroom. It is imperative that Parents question the school about exactly how special education supports and services are to be implemented during this time.
It is important to remember that just because we are in a pandemic does not mean that your child’s right to a meaningful education is limited! Here are some useful tips to make sure your child is getting what they need:
- Call an IEP meeting and ask for a temporary IEP that will detail exactly how services are to be administered during this time.
- Make a contingency plan should your child be required to stay home.
- Keep all communication with the school in writing. If you have telephone conversations keep detailed notes about the conversation.
Remember that you are your child’s parent, and you know what is best for them! Keep going, we’re going to make it through this.