Parents of children with special needs face tough decisions on sending them to school during pandemic

Parents of special needs students face tough decision on sending kids to school during pandemic

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Parents with school-aged children are currently staring down the barrel of a tough decision for this school year: send your child to class during a pandemic or keep them home and utilize virtual learning.

It is a decision that is even tougher for parents with children who have special needs.

“Considering the numbers are still rising the way they are with the virus, and also knowing that we, me, myself, I do have an underlying condition, we don’t want to take that risk,” Ursula Brown said.

Brown’s daughter, Tiera, has autism and is nonverbal. For Brown, sending her daughter to school was not worth the risk of Tiera getting COVID-19 and bringing it home.

“She deserves better than this,” Brown said.

She is now tasked with using whatever virtual resources East Baton Rouge Schools will provide while sticking with Tiera’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).

“That will be challenging for me because my schedule has to change,” she said. “I have to make time for her, I have to sit with her and I have to redirect her numerous times perhaps to just be still because of her attention span.”

The East Baton Rouge Parish School System released its blueprint for reopening for the 2020-2021 school year Thursday, July 16.

School officials say the school year will start on-time Aug. 6 and offer students and families two options:

  • A hybrid learning model that provides face-to-face instruction two days each week to start and expands over time, focusing on expanding face-to-face time for the youngest grades first; and
  • An all-virtual learning model that facilitates learning remotely through each student’s school of record.

“Our suggestion to them was to keep in contact with your child’s teacher,” said Cynthia Chesterfield, the program director of inclusive education at Families Helping Families.

Chesterfield said by keeping in touch with the child’s educator, parents can utilize all resources to keep to help implement their IEP.

Brown said she plans to do just that but said she is worried that learning through a screen will not be as effective as learning in the classroom.

“I just wish that this big bad dream would go away,” Brown said.

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