Ceres Learns

Ceres Learns at Home: Episode 5 - Distance Learning and Special Education

May 14, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Ceres Learns
Ceres Learns at Home: Episode 5 - Distance Learning and Special Education
Chapters
Ceres Learns
Ceres Learns at Home: Episode 5 - Distance Learning and Special Education
May 14, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5

In Episode 5 of Ceres Learns at Home, Superintendent Scott Siegel talks with Director of Special Education Kristi Britton about distance learning challenges that are unique to special education, resources and support available to families, and summer learning for students with special needs.

Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 5 of Ceres Learns at Home, Superintendent Scott Siegel talks with Director of Special Education Kristi Britton about distance learning challenges that are unique to special education, resources and support available to families, and summer learning for students with special needs.

Introduction :

Hello, and welcome to Ceres Learns at Home, hosted by Ceres Unified School District Superintendent Scott Siegel. This weekly Q&A covers distance learning and other topics related to school closures for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. To ask a question for a future episode, email [email protected] Now your host, Dr. Scott Siegel.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Hello, and welcome to Episode 5 of Ceres Learns at Home, which is all about special education in this time of distance learning. I'm pleased to welcome my guest today, Kristi Britton, who is our Director of Special Education.

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

Hello everyone.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Kristi, thanks for being here. As you know, our focus for the past several weeks has shifted from in-person instruction to distance learning, which we have carried out in phases using a variety of tools and resources from paper packets to online instruction and technology supports. What has the shift to distance learning looked like for special education students and teachers? How has the process been similar to or different from general education?

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

We are following the guidelines for general education, but have made adjustments as needed for special education students. For classroom teachers, they are continuing to work with families and utilizing technology to meet the needs of their students. Their lessons may look different than those in general education, just as those classes look different in face-to-face instruction when we visit classrooms for special education students. They are pushing out through technology the different curriculum resources specifically for special education. They're also providing packets and communicating with families. As appropriate, teachers are creating mini lessons and short videos to engage their students in chunks of time that are appropriate for their learners. In addition to classroom teachers, we have a variety of other service providers that are using technology resources to meet with students individually and in small groups, such as our Speech and Language Pathologists and Mental Health Clinicians. Staff are doing the very best they can to meet the unique needs of our special education students during this time of distance learning.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Kristi, what are some of the challenges that are unique to special education and what are some of the tools and resources special education teachers and staff are employing to be sure that students can continue their learning while school is closed?

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

For our most severe students, remote learning has definitely presented challenges and created a need for us to think outside the box. We must now rely even more on families to a much higher degree during this time to support learning and provide feedback to teachers. Staff are using Google Classroom, creating videos, meeting with students and families via Zoom, as well as using some new tools like Boom Cards to address students' learning needs. Teachers are providing opportunities for parents to ask questions and they are creating these videos of lessons so that students can watch more than once or watch at their own pace.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

What are some of the ways that our families can help their children engage in distance learning?

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

I would definitely encourage our families to really focus on structure and routines, thinking about what that instructional time looks like at home and creating a particular routine or structure that students can follow when they know it's "learning time" for their students. We have posted some resources on the Special Education page of the Ceres Unified district website for families to utilize during distance learning. I would encourage families to check out the Behavior Support and Social Stories resources. These resources include strategies for addressing behavior, creating routines and schedules, as well as positive reinforcement strategies.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Kristi, for our special education students, academic instruction is only one facet of what they gain from being at school. What is our Special Education department doing to ensure that students stay connected not only to their learning, but to their support system which includes teachers and other school staff?

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

That's a great question, Scott. Case managers are not only providing learning experience for students, but are reaching out to families to ensure their questions are answered and needs are addressed. We are using our paraprofessionals and related staff as much as we can during the remote learning time. Staff are communicating with administration regarding students who are not accessing the learning so that we can reach out to those families to find out why and resolve any issues or concerns.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

How about Individualized Education Plan meetings? For listeners who may not be familiar with that terminology, an Individualized Education Plan, or IEP, lays out the details of a student's education program. It is designed to be unique for the needs of each student. Parents meet regularly with a team of school and district staff to review and modify IEPs to ensure student specific needs are being met. How are IEP meetings being conducted while schools are closed?

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

Again, Scott, the remote learning has provided some unique challenges for Special Education. As you stated, we are continuing to meet with parents to discuss student's IEPs. We are conducting these meetings either via Zoom or on the phone as much as we can. There are some students that require assessments to be completed, however. We are hopeful that many of these assessments can be completed during the summer so that we can hold those meetings with families prior to the school year starting, with importance being placed on meetings that may impact students school placements in August.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Kristi, what would parents do if they are dissatisfied with the terms of the IEP or if they feel like the IEP that the student has is not being followed right now?

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

That's another great question, Scott. Just like the times when we're not doing remote learning, parents can always contact their school site administrator or Program Specialist to discuss their concerns. They can also request an IEP meeting and we will conduct that meeting within 30 days.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

The sudden shift to distance learning has presented challenges for both educators and families. Many of whom are simultaneously working from home and caring for younger children while trying to ensure that students continue to learn. There can be added challenges in this regard for our families and special education students. So, what are some of the things we're doing as a school district to support special education families during this time when they're trying to help their students learn from home, and what other resources might be available to them?

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

As I mentioned earlier in the podcast, we have created resources for families to support them in dealing with things like behavior, how to create routines and schedules, and ideas for reinforcement and rewards that are posted on the Special Education page of the District website. We know that this is hard for everyone, and I hope that parents are giving themselves grace and know that we appreciate all that they are doing to support their children during this time. They shouldn't expect that learning from home will be the same as learning at school. Remember that at school, we have a lot of transitions from one activity to the next, as well as a lot of breaks for students. They should be providing breaks for themselves and their children. Get up and move to a song or take a walk outside. Movement breaks are a great strategy for both adults and children. Parents should also not be afraid to reach out to their children's teachers for support and advice. We want to hear from you and are here to support you.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Thank you, Kristi. You know, we know that for general education students, summer school in June has been cancelled for in-person classes, and we may be doing some things with credit recovery for high school students and some other distance learning type opportunities for students. But tell me, will there be summer learning for special education students and, if so, what might that look like?

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

For students who qualify for Extended School Year, or what we call ESY, notifications have been sent out regarding how that will look this year. We are planning on remote learning ESY taking place from June 8 through July 2. High School Special Education students who are in need of credit recovery will also have the same opportunity as their general education peers through the online program offered by the District. Our plan for ESY will be a combination of instruction similar to what is happening currently during remote learning time. Case managers will also be providing office hours each week for parents and students to communicate with their teacher and get questions answered and concerns addressed.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Great. So Kristi, is there anything else you'd like listeners to know before you wrap up this episode on special education and distance learning?

Kristi Britton, Director of Special Education :

First of all, Scott, I want to thank you for allowing me to come in and be part of this podcast and represent our students with special needs. For our parents, I want them to know that we truly appreciate all of the support that they're providing our students during this time. Also we truly miss our students and can't wait for them to be back at school. We welcome your feedback and questions and look forward to continuing our strong partnerships with families, both during the duration of the closure as well as when in-person instruction resumes.

Scott Siegel, Superintendent :

Thank you, Kristi, for sharing that information as we continue to ensure that "all means all" in Ceres Unified School District, and thank you, listeners, for tuning in. Before I finish today, I actually want to talk for a moment about next school year, and what we're looking at in terms of reopening. I know there's been a lot in the news lately about July openings, and staggered start times for kids, and kids coming in in shifts, and I want our listeners to know that our plan is to open up as normal on August 12, with all of our students attending – and we are really looking forward to seeing them. Of course, that is completely subject to the whims of this virus, and if the authorities deem that is not appropriate, we will open in some other matter. Well, that will do it for today's episode. Please remember to send your podcast questions to [email protected], and join us on Thursday, May 21, for Episode 6, Health and Wellness During School Closures, with my guests from the Student Support Services team. Transcribed by https://otter.ai