Special needs students return to school for limited instruction

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Posted at 6:02 PM, Aug 17, 2020

CARROLL COUNTY, Md. (WMAR) — For the Vascos from Carroll County, today was a big day.

"It’s just, it’s a good day," said Pete Vasco.

For their son Ronnie, probably one of the best days since the pandemic started.

"It's just great to get him back in there," said Megan Vasco.

He went back to school today as part of a program Carroll County is offering to select special needs students.

"After he left, he was very happy," said Megan.

Ronnie has autism and his parents say he has regressed in both his education and behavior since the start of virtual learning so they were excited to hear he could be included in Jumpstart.

"Basically it’s an hour and a half Monday through Thursday this week and next week and the students go to school and get to work with, at least for Ronnie, a very familiar teacher. And it's just two kids at a time... and they are wearing masks and the teachers have their masks on," said Megan.

"We appreciate how conservative they are being though because of what we are seeing in other states, especially down south with the outbreaks," said Pete.

The Vascos really hope this program continues into the fall, with the ideal solution being that Ronnie attends school half the day and works with an in home therapist for the other half.

"I’m just excited the county is thinking outside the box. We still don’t know what's happening in the fall but the fact that they threw this program together to try it is promising," said Megan.

The Carroll County superintendent said he wants to see this effort continue into the beginning of the school year with a focus on bringing in special education students whose parents want them to attend. He said the incremental approach of opening virtually for all and focusing on a few small groups would allow them to evaluate their process for safe in-person instruction, with the goal of returning as many students as possible to the classroom safely.

While waiting for information on the fall, the next challenge for the Vascos is finding an in-home therapist for Ronnie. After contacting 12 providers, they are down to only two potential options.

"Logistics or out of network or just not taking new clients there’s an assortment [of issues] but we have been tenaciously trying to find somebody but we will find somebody. It’s just a matter of time," said Pete.

The Vascos are also very appreciative of the hard work teachers are putting in in the meantime.

"His teachers are amazing. They have had to basically do the work of being in school and writing sub plans every single day," said Megan.

Professional family photos in this story courtesy of Brooke Reid Photography