As we transitioned into remote learning across the state, local educators and support staff were given the impossible task of making wholesale changes to their everyday practices. Students and families had to make these same changes, uncertain of what the next day would hold when it pertained to COVID19. Amongst all of this, those in the special education department and support staff who work directly 1:1 with students were now upended from the daily services that were outlined in student IEPs and 504 plans.
For support staff like myself, who teach life skills and provide 1:1 physical support for our learners, how were these critical aspects of everyday school practices going to be taken care of going forward? Is the state going to allow these legally binding documents to expire, and break federal law in the process? I worry about our low-income population as well, who have learners with special needs. Those who don’t just need the educational support for their child, but require additional assistance when it comes to food access and internet. What are we doing to support them?
Remote learning has proven to be a great transitory option when international epidemics occur, but cannot be considered a long-term substitute for our learners who thrive when 1:1 learning occurs. Public education inside of brick and mortar schools is important. When there are federal protections for all learners, and basic needs that are not being meet, the important discussions to find alternatives and solutions must be made at the local level. They must start happening today.
Our governor must sit down with our public school district leaders across the state. He must begin to ask the hard questions surrounding the fulfillment of special education services for learners who require 1:1 attention. This includes access to assistive devices (including technology support), physical supports (carried out by health professionals), and other therapies provided by our support professionals and therapists. A solution for the 2020-2021 school year in clear writing with agreement from all legislative leaders, disability rights organizations and union presidents is the only way to provide relief to New Hampshire’s families. We must provide relief to New Hampshire’s parents. We must come together and fix this before it becomes out of hand, and jeopardizes our educational practices and critical services provided to learners going forward.