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AACo parents call for in-person school option for special needs students

AACo working on virtual plan for first semester of school
Online schooling
Posted at 6:05 PM, Jul 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-21 19:12:13-04

PASADENA, Md (WMAR) — "You feel defeated. When all this is available we can do and we’re just not doing it," said Anne Arundel County dad Adam Wyndham.

His soon-to-be 5-year-old daughter Emily is always on his mind. She has Rett Syndrome, causing a disconnect from her brain to the rest of her body, making it so she can’t talk or walk. They moved to Maryland to be closer to top notch medical care for her and worked with Anne Arundel County Public Schools to develop a plan for her schooling, including pre-k last year and her upcoming kindergarten year.

"Her team even acknowledged the great progress she was making and then all of that came to a screeching halt," said Wyndham.

A halt with the move to online education because of the pandemic. It made the plans built specifically for her success basically useless.

"She has no purposeful hand movements so she can't even begin to navigate any technology device," said Wyndham.

He understood the learning curve with the pandemic, but hoped things would change for the upcoming school year to help support his daughter in the classroom.

Elizabeth Medlock had similar hopes for her 8-year-old daughter Logan, who has Cerebral Palsy. Medlock attributes Logans' progress to being physically present with peers and teachers.

According to the county’s family survey results, only 21 percent supported a virtual only option.

So both AACo parents were shocked when the superintendent announced yesterday that given the current state of the pandemic and reopening plan, school will be virtual for the first semester.

“We all want students to be back in our buildings, but there are very real concerns about returning to those settings in September for us and for a significant portion of our families and our employees,” Superintendent George Arlotto said.

"Why can't we find those solutions to keep our kids safe and at the same time meeting our needs? Because my biggest concern is this regression that is happening and how are they going to make that up?" said Medlock.

It’s regression they have both already seen with Logan and Emily. Medlock said Logan is very unmotivated and needs that peer to peer interaction. Wyndham said Emily needs the support from her whole team of teachers and assistants to keep up her physical movement.

"We can’t teach them things later. If she loses the little bit of walking she can do, she’ll never get it back," said Wyndham.

They say their kids need their peers, the supports, the teams in place to help them grow so they’re calling on the county to offer an in-person hybrid option for special needs students.

The spokesman for the county said the virtual plan in still in the works and they are working very hard to address accommodations for students with special needs, including the possibility of limited in-person instruction.

"If we can go to the mall and go shopping and if we can sit at a restaurant or go to a bar, we can safely serve our special education students in an in-person setting. There’s a lot safety measures that can be put in place," said Medlock.

The first draft of the virtual plan will be presented at the July 22 county board of education meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. The meeting will be broadcast live on AACPS’ YouTube channel.

Public input on the plan will be accepted through Friday, July 31. Comments can be submitted to reopening2020@aacps.org, or delivered by mail or in person to the Carol S. Parham Building at 2644 Riva Road, Annapolis, MD 21401.

A final plan will be developed and sent, as required, to the Maryland State Department of Education by August 14.

Wyndham has also started a petition for face-to-face learning for special needs students.