Parents and schools struggle to meet the needs of students in the pandemic

Delaware Valley schools are in a tough spot trying to balance learning needs of all students.

A Delaware County mom says virtual learning won’t work with her son who has special needs, but claims the school isn’t offering any alternatives.

One on a laptop, another on a lunch break and a third in a virtual class. Dad teaching his own class of students live.

It’s chaos too many parents know deeply as school begins in a pandemic. But, Joann Simmonds says there’s one aspect of this that isn’t acceptable.

“Our school district has not made any accommodations or plans for how they would treat these kids with significant disabilities,” parent Joann Simmonds.

Joann’s 16-year-old son, Daniel, a sophomore in Haverford High School’s Life Skills class has intellectual disability and autism. She says he can’t read, write, tell time or independently log on to a laptop without someone sitting next to him.

Virtual learning didn’t go well when schools were forced to close quickly in the spring due to COVID-19.

Joann says the district knew that, but three days before school started on August 31st she says she learned they had no options this year for special needs students – it was either in-person or virtual learning with an aid.

She has a full-time job and cannot work remotely. She says she had to use vacation time to stay home last week.

“To know when his breaks are, to read emails, to read what’s on canvas, to read the packet that was sent home and dropped off…it’s unrealistic. They know this. I also asked them about letting myself hire someone and then reimbursing and that was also denied,” Joann explained.

In an email, a spokeswoman for the school district of Haverford Township said they are following the guidance of the Chester County Health Department for reopening. The school board moved their next meeting up to September 21st for the sole purpose of considering the return of small groups of students who need the most support.

Some nearby districts are already doing that.

In the meantime, Joann says Daniel isn’t learning.

“It just violates his rights and it’s very frustrating,” Joann added.


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