Students with disabilities across both Daviess County and Owensboro Public Schools are learning online, for the most part, but that could soon change per updated guidance from the Kentucky Department of Education.
Though special education teachers are going to great lengths to make Non-Traditional Instruction work for their students, officials from both districts said most of their staff is looking forward to resuming in-person classes.
At DCPS, some students with disabilities are already in the classroom, according to Director of Special Education Robin Bush.
“Our students with disabilities will be participating in the virtual format with some small groups coming into the school to receive instruction specific to their Individual Education Plan goals,” Bush said. “Decisions to return to in person instruction will be made on individual basis following the guidance provided by the Ky Department of Education.”
Both districts are facing struggles with the online learning format for their students. Securing reliable internet access for special needs students has been one of the biggest challenges for DCPS. Bush said the technological struggle has hindered students both with and without disabilities.
Other struggles faced by special needs students have been the lack of a consistent routine, the need for physical assistance with accommodations, and limited social interaction with peers, Bush said.
“We all agree that remote learning presents a challenge but we are working to solve those challenges to the best of our ability,” said OPS Director of Special Education Kim Johnson. “Our teachers are doing a great job of providing instruction and making connections. Many of our teachers are choosing to do sidewalk visits to go and check on students and help them with technology.”
Johnson said OPS students with disabilities are learning remotely for now, with teachers using a variety of online resources to provide education, therapeutic and individualized support through means such as Google Classroom and Google Meets.
DCPS and OPS are both in the process of developing plans for students, including those with disabilities, who can attend school in-person for targeted service in addition to remote learning.
Based on guidance from KDE, targeted instruction could include evaluations, necessary hands-on experiences, mental health or academic counseling, occupational, physical or speech therapy, or targeted remediation or tutoring, Johnson added.
For now, teachers and students are making the best out of an unconventional situation. Johnson said many of OPS’ students with disabilities have learned how to utilize technology to continue new instruction, and that check-ins to monitor students’ behavior have been a positive part of the process as well.
“Our students were happy to ‘see’ their teachers and classmates [on Monday],” Johnson said. “I received my first peek at a Google Meet yesterday … our students with significant cognitive needs were meeting together and reviewing expectations. Our teachers and students are making it work. I will say, we are ready for kids to be back in schools full-time, as soon as it’s safe.”