Emily Schwank, Intern
As the upcoming school year will begin online, parents of students with special needs are adapting to virtual learning.
When the Temecula Valley Unified School District moved to distance learning in March, many students had to adjust to the new environment.
Jackie Hunter, mother of a freshman at Great Oak High School, said, “Jayda learns best in a face to face setting with hands-on learning experiences. Online learning was a definite struggle.”
When schools were initially shut down, TVUSD froze student’s grades so they would not decrease regardless of any work completed for the rest of the school year. Grades could only improve. Students who were satisfied with their grades in March chose not to do any additional school work, without penalty.
“There was little to no meaningful education happening during that time,” Hunter said. “We decided that it was best to focus our attention on learning independent living skills during this time instead. It is still a work in progress, but she has definitely gained some independence.”
For the upcoming school year, standard grading and attendance will return.
“People with Down syndrome have some short-term memory challenges, and if they don’t practice skills repetitively, they lose those skills easily,” Hunter said. “Without interacting with her teacher, aide and peers daily, she has definitely lost many academic skills in just a few short months. I am terrified to see how much she regresses over the next school year if she is not allowed to return to school in a traditional setting.
The district is preparing virtual classes and interventions for special education students in all grade levels.
“On one hand, we want to keep our kids safe and realize they are an at-risk population. On the other hand, we know that distance learning is not conducive to their needs and many will regress academically, socially and mentally because of it. It is very unfortunate that our most vulnerable population seems to always be an afterthought and seem to lose out the most,” Hunter said. “Whatever happens, we will give 100% effort and continue with a positive attitude to help our children be the best they can be.”
Emily Schwank can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.