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Co-op works to craft county-wide special education protocol

Co-op works to craft county-wide special education protocol Co-op works to craft county-wide special education protocol
Joey Bowling, Intern, [email protected]

Special education has not been exempted from the damage created from the coronavirus pandemic. As schools shifted to online learning in the spring, many schools scrambled to create plans to help their most vulnerable students.

The Harrison County Exceptional Learners Cooperative has spent the summer forming a plan to address these needs to be better prepared as schools open as early as next week.

Program director Bruce Kulwicki said he believes they’ve created a comprehensive plan but still has concerns. Some kids are getting speech therapy lessons; others need assistance with eating.

“It really varies,” Kulwicki said. “We need to keep equity in mind.”

While more than 85% of students are integrated into non-disabled classrooms and may only require speech therapy once a week or extra time on tests, that doesn’t include the more involved students.

“Most of our kids are of average intelligence but have different learning needs,” Kulwicki said.

Others need help with day-to-day activities such as toileting and hygiene. There are other kids who are medically fragile so considerations such as more frequent cleaning or virtual learning need to be addressed.

“They need hand-over-hand care,” Kulwicki said. “But, I don’t see kids coming in with more-involved needs and not getting needs met.”

Individual case reviews will still be conducted, per state law. Case conference committees will continue meeting virtually, which Kulwicki said has helped parents attend them more easily.

The Exceptional Learners Cooperative expects to have about 1,100 individual education program case reviews. IEPs are documents outlining educational needs and goals, crafted by parents and district personnel. They dictate the frequency and type of help students receive.

For students attending school in person, they’ll interact with their psychologists and other support personnel face to face, with a protective partition separating them. Staff and therapists will also use personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks and face shields when needed.

The re-opening plan for the county school corporations also states if a student is ordered by a physician to miss 10 or more consecutive school days, the corporation will provide special education services.

For more information about special education in Harrison County, call the Exceptional Learners Cooperative at 812-738-2094.