Both the University of Georgia and the Clarke County School District have shifted to remote instruction for the foreseeable future.
UGA, which closed Mar. 12 for the rest of the month, announced last week that classes would resume online Mar. 30. Public K-12 schools in Georgia are also closed, and students are continuing coursework online or, for younger kids, with packets of worksheets emailed to parents to print out.
“We are simply asked to create a 90-minute day for the kids and push it out to parents through various portals,” said one second-grade teacher. “Some teachers are doing more than others, but not in a one-up kind of way. It just depends on if they have their own kids to take care of on top of checking in with parents. They asked us to call and see if there was something they needed.
“Most parents complain about trying to do their job and parent and teach. Not all of the families are salaried and still have to find a way to make money, and the ones who work for themselves can’t find work right now.
“Most kids and parents miss seeing their friends most of all. Lots of FaceTime and web calls. I did see one fifth-grade teacher from J.J. Harris doing daily two-hour hangouts with her class with students who needed consistent check-ins. Lots of people are sharing resources, but it all depends on the parent having enough time and internet access to facilitate the activities.”
Parents of special education students face challenges that at times have seemed insurmountable.
“I’m struggling with my youngest,” said one mother. “We have received resources to work with him, but he is in a special needs preschool, and all resources seemed well above his level. I definitely feel they are not following his IEP by not providing resources targeted to his needs and level of cognition.”
Said another parent, “Even just being able to access digital schooling isn't enough to keep my kid learning what she needs, and I mainly hope that the school will be very generous with how they grade. I'd hate for my kid or any kid to get held back a year because of this pandemic. Only the most privileged and easy to educate kids, and with at least one parent who is able to take the time be their home teacher, are going to do well academically.”
According to CCSD’s Brannon Gaskins, chief academic officer, the district has taken the following steps to provide special education instructional support:
All speech language pathologists are contacting students and families regarding SLP services and documenting contacts and activities. Customized materials are being provided to address IEP goals and objectives. In addition, the following list of resources has been posted multiple places on the CCSD website: CCSD Speech-Language Home Suggestions.
Behavior specialists are continuing to support students they have been working with. Contact is being made with all families to provide virtual in-home behavior support. In addition, behavior specialists are in the process of creating mini-videos to provide parents with tips and strategies to support children's emotional needs while they are learning from home. These videos will be posted on individual school websites in the next few days.
A meeting was held with all special education team leaders on Mar. 17. A checklist for all special education case managers was provided along with a log to document instructional materials as well as contact with families. The expectation is that every case manager will connect with students on their caseload on a daily basis in some fashion to support their distance learning. These supports are being monitored by special education coordinators.
Special education teachers are partnering with regular education teachers to provide appropriate accommodations and support to help prevent regression from occurring during this time of distance learning.
Any student served in the adapted program received an individualized set of materials appropriate to meet their academic needs.
Any student served in the Interrelated program received the grade-level packet of materials and access to Google activities that other students in their grade level received. Special education teachers are supporting them to ensure they are able to access this information. When necessary, technology tools are being shared with families or special education teachers are working with students on the phone to help check for understanding and answer questions.
CCSD is continuing to monitor and provide resources daily to families as they become available.
Special education staff will continue to work with instructional leaders and teachers to continue to develop instructional materials in upcoming professional learning opportunities.
UGA gave faculty two weeks to transition their courses to online and it created tutorials about various online tools available to them. Students will be able to have virtual sessions with their academic advisors and to engage tutors as well if they need them. Faculty can ask for help from the Center for Teaching and Learning.
Psychology professor Janet Frick said she sent a survey to her students to find out what their needs are and make sure they have internet access where they are. “I plan to adjust my course requirements to make it doable under less than ideal circumstances,” she said.