Tucson Unified making plans for students with disabilities for upcoming school year

Disabilities and reopening schools

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Unified School District plans to resume classes remotely in less than three weeks.

The district is laying out plans for students with learning disabilities and those on individual education plans.

“We definitely as educators, do not believe this is the best model and we don’t believe this is the best practices,” said TUSD Exceptional Education Director Sabrina Salmon. “We believe given the information and resources we have, this is the best alternative.”

School districts are challenged with finding the best way to teach students under the circumstance of COVID-19.

Some parents are raising concerns.

"I'm a working momma, so I can't be home with him to make sure he's doing everything right," said Rachel Enriquez, a mother whose son has a learning disability.

Rachel Enriquez’s son was diagnosed with ADHD. He’s going into third grade this fall, but is at a kindergarten level. She fears this school year will drop him further behind.

“He needs that one-on-one,” she said. “He did the computer thing at the end of the school year and just didn’t comprehend.”

TUSD plans to use teleconferencing for special education services such as counseling, speech, sign language, occupational or physical therapy.

Students can access IEP services online or remotely until it is safe to do so on-campus.  Once students can return to in-person class, some services will be provided to preschool students and students in self-contained programs on-campus.

"Students with disabilities will have priority to have on-site instruction," Salmon said. "We are going to start with students in self-contained programs. We will have those programs set up and will follow more traditional form of instruction."

The year will be a new experience for the district, parents and students.

"I think for our students with disabilities, it will be a challenge to figure out how to provide these modifications and how to meet their unique needs," she said.

Salmon said she thinks it works well when teachers have background of their students. If a teacher is new to a student, she said it’s important for parents communicate with the teacher to make sure their child is getting their educational needs met.

Once they return to the classroom, some students will be exempt from wearing a mask.

In these cases, the district will talk with parents about a daily wellness check amd staff will check temperatures of students not wearing a mask. 

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