What the upcoming fall semester will look like has been the big question for school leaders, students, parents and government officials alike as the coronavirus pandemic continues. El Campo ISD leaders are expected to finalize a plan for the upcoming semester this week, which will allow special education department leaders to prepare for extra assistance that students may need.
“Our ultimate goal is to have kids in school,” El Campo ISD Special Education Director Amy Bosse said. “We also understand that we have some very unique needs so we would not put anybody at risk.”
The Texas Education Agency has released general COVID-19 guidance for the upcoming semester. El Campo ISD officials plan to provide a combination of in-person and at-home learning in the fall.
“Until we have the general part of it ironed out, it’s hard exactly to know (what special education will look like),” Bosse said.
TEA’s latest guidance for remote learning says districts should prioritize Special Education (SPED) students as they are potentially high-risk for learning gaps due to schools closing in March.
Once the school district establishes what a school day will look like in the fall, then Bosse will be able to plan for her students’ needs, she said.
“Whether it’s extra barriers,” Bosse added. “Whether it’s if I really have a kid that’s too medically fragile to come to school, do I need to find a homebound teacher?”
Around 360 SPED students are enrolled at ECISD, out of almost 4,000 students total in the district.
One criticism from ECISD parents concerning the at-home 2019-2020 was the lack of a consistent format for student assignments. The websites teachers used sometimes varied for each grade or each class. ECISD leadership wants to change that for the fall semester, Bosse said.
“What we’re going for as a leadership group is just that consistency to help our parents out,” she said.
The pandemic closed ECISD on March 16, and educators across the country, ECISD teachers had to adapt to remote learning models with minimal prior preparation. With almost an entire semester of remote learning under the district’s belt, teachers and administrators are preparing for COVID-19 outbreaks in the fall.
“Now we’re kind of getting ahead of the curve,” Bosse said. “Worst-case scenario, a kid has (learning materials) at home to help them extend their learning. That’s not a horrible thing.”
TEA has released guidance for districts on synchronous learning, remote sessions held between students and teachers in real time, and asynchronous learning, remote education conducted without real-time interaction. ECISD and LISD used a combination of the two types of education in the spring and will likely use both in the fall. The district’s preliminary plan calls for SPED students and dyslexia students to be taught in small groups, whether in-person or remotely. Interacting with teachers or breaking up class time into smaller sections can make a big difference regarding student engagement, Bosse said.
“The online format, for some of our kids that’s great,” she said. “For others of our kids that doesn’t get it. They need the materials in their hands.”
Any SPED parents with questions about the fall semester are encouraged to contact Bosse or other department members.
“Reach out to your kids’ teachers,” she said. “Reach out to me. We’re here to help. If I don’t have the answer, I will do my best to find it.”