Back to School: How boards are assisting students with special needs
File photo of person in a wheelchair.
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's four main school boards have laid out plans for getting students with special needs back to school.
Here is a look at how each board is planning to make the return to school during the COVID-19 as safe and easy as possible for students with special needs and their parents or guardians.
Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
The OCDSB says elementary students with special needs will attend in person or by remote learning. Those going in person will attend school five days per week, with enhanced health and safety protocols in place. Special education support will be provided as per their IEP.
Support can be provided for specific transition needs where necessary, the board says.
Larger spaces, like the library or conference rooms will be preserved to allow for space to maintain distancing during periods of withdrawal (e.g. Empower). Resource or body break rooms could also be available with individual equipment and proper cleaning between students scheduled to use the room.
Integration opportunities are provided per individual student program (e.g. Learning Disabilities Specialized Intervention Program [LD SIP], integration for specific subjects) and during integration periods, specific seating (e.g. grouping students from LD SIP together during the integration portion of the day) will be provided to enable contact tracing.
Secondary students with special needs can attend either in person or by remote learning. Those attending in person will attend school in a hybrid model, attending school five days out of 10. Students who are not on a credit pathway (e.g., Semi-Integrated Developmental Disabilities Program, Autism Spectrum Disorder Program) will attend 5 days per week, with enhanced health and safety protocols in place, while students wo are on credit pathways in a specialized program class may attend five days per week while some may attend with their cohort, with enhanced health and safety protocols in place.
Special education support will be provided as per their IEP and support can be provided for specific transition needs, where necessary.
Alternative arrangements will be developed to support students who have difficulty accessing the remote learning part of the day.
In addition, integration opportunities will be provided per individual student program. During these periods, specific seating will be provided to enable contact tracing.
However, there will be no field trips, no kitchen work experience, no use of the Snoezelen room and no swim program.
Ottawa Catholic School Board
The OCSB says their "school-designated teams will work with students with special needs to find creative solutions for each individual challenge."
The OCSB says students in system classes with 15 or fewer students (in 9 -12) will attend school five days a week. Daily access to in-person support will be prioritized for students with special needs where cohorting can be maintained;
Staff who work with students who are hearing impaired or on the spectrum will be wearing see-through window masks.
Teachers will follow accommodations as per the IEP for both in-person and online learning activities and educational assistants and resource teacher support that was available in person will also be available online as needed.
Mental health counselling will be provided face to face or virtually when appropriate. Opportunities for enriched online experiences for students identified as Gifted will be provided while in-person learning is restricted. Parents will be contacted with specific details.
Psychologists, Social Workers, Addictions Counsellors, Speech and Language Pathologists, Behaviour Analysts/Consultants will continue to provide one on one supports which may be virtual when appropriate;
Cleaning practices will be put in place for any sensory items used by a student with the preference that these items be assigned to individual students only. Enhanced cleaning will be scheduled for rooms or spaces accessed by multiple students during a day including resource rooms, and other rooms accessed specifically by students with special needs.
Staff working in close proximity to students who may potentially have bodily fluid challenges will be provided with additional personal protective equipment such as disposable gowns and gloves.
The board also says Chromebooks and other required devices or internet connectivity will be provided as needed to families of students with special needs.
Conseil des écoles publiques de l'est de l'Ontario
The CEPEO says students with special needs in systemic classes will attend school full time at both the elementary and secondary levels. There will be a transition period in late August to help familiarize students with the changes they will encounter.
Access to sensory rooms will be limited to one student at a time and each student will have their own tray of sensory materials.
Each student will be assigned a colour, which will be used to identify their autonomous workspace, and their materials, work, and bins.
In the event a student needs to be isolated, a room will be provided with enough space to include adult supervision. This room will be cleaned after each use.
A space will be created in the classroom with equipment students can use one at time, such as stationary bicycles or a small trampoline, to allow for exercise. Each object will be cleaned after each use.
Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est
The CECCE says there will be strict hygiene measures in the classroom to protect vulnerable students as a priority. The same guidelines and procedures that apply to all classes and that are outlined in the CECCE's Return to School Guide will apply to separate classes for students with special needs.
Students in separate classes will be able to attend school every day. A deep cleaning will be done daily at the end of each school day. Parents are encouraged to prepare their children for the use of masks, as they remain compulsory for students in grades 4-12, though exemptions can be obtained.
Students who need help moving, changing or dressing will have the same assistant every day, to ensure a limited number of contacts with other people. One person will be designated for all hygiene changes. Each student will have a clearly designated space to store personal items like diapers, wet wipes, and changes of clothing.
Sensory objects will be placed in individual bins with each student's name and disinfected daily. No sharing of these objects will be allowed.
Students who are blind or who have reduced vision will have access to a teacher in protective equipment to help guide them where necessary. Teachers will have masks with face windows to aid students who are deaf or hard of hearing with lip-reading.