In the time of COVID-19, the future of special education instruction may be taking place right now at a Novato middle school in California’s Marin County. A peek into its classrooms gives us some ideas about effective strategies for the coming school year when working with students who have severe disabilities.
At San Jose Middle School, teachers rely on in-person classes with plenty of social distancing and safety precautions. It has been done with a great amount of effort and there is a high classroom ratio of adults to students.
Confronting challenges due to COVID-19
In working with local health care officials, the school’s educators sought an alternative to distance learning because so many special education students had difficulty adapting.
Replacing classroom teacher-student interaction with Zoom meetings or lessons on a computer screen proved hollow and counter-productive from some. While parents made noble efforts with at-home teaching, they sometimes failed. For many students, distance learning was not a good fit.
San Jose Middle School has taken many precautions. Here are some developments that have occurred:
- Upon arrival, students have their temperatures taken and throughout the day. Teachers ask parents a series of health-related questions, including whether anyone in their family has COVID-19-like symptoms.
- Before school starts, student backpacks are wiped with disinfectants.
- Hand sanitizers and wipes get constant use in the classroom.
- All students in the classroom must wear masks.
- With many adults in the classroom, effective monitoring of students is in place with children kept safely apart from other students.
- The school serves no meals as students must bring their own lunch.
- Recess has changed, too, as students simply walk around the school.
Many of the school’s students expressed joy upon returning to the classroom. This is just one example of how educators adapt. Changes are happening at other schools as well.