Back to in-person school

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 20, 2020, 11:44 PM | comments: 0

Simon made it to the holiday break with solid grades from remote learning, but to say it was a struggle doesn't quite capture it. After a lot of consideration, we decided he should return to face-to-face school for the spring semester.

The first step in making the decision was to consider where the science was. As is the case with a lot of the things about the pandemic that are counterintuitive, elementary school in-person is relatively low risk. Dr. Fauci is pretty confident about it, and what we've seen in our district follows the science and best practices. Classes essentially have their own bubbles that never interact, the kids aren't in close proximity, and importantly, when there have been cases from kids or teachers, none have spread within the school community. They've done an exceptionally great job tracing those situations. I wish they would do some kind of periodic testing, but they don't have the money for that.

If the remote learning was easy and successful, obviously we would just keep him home, because it's certainly more convenient in the way that remote work is. However, Simon needs a lot of attention and direction, which means that Diana essentially has to be the teacher's aide at all times. It's also difficult to really offer the additional help that his IEP requires. The technology itself causes meltdowns when it doesn't work, and they're really hard to recover from. Missing something because of a dropped call or garbled audio sets him off in the worst possible way. The thing that I worry about the most though is that these are the years when he has to develop the coping skills to adjust for his unique wiring, the thing that helps people on the autism spectrum operate in the neuro-typical world. He's just not having those experiences, and his maturity is behind by a few years.

If a case does surface in his class, they keep everyone remote for more than a week, and since it's a blended class of remote and in-person, he can roll from home if necessary. In our district, you can switch from in-school to remote at any time, but not the other way around. Granted, it's hard to say what will happen in January considering things are getting progressively worse in terms of infections, hospitalizations and death, but there are institutions and businesses that have figured out how to do this while mitigating the risks. I mean, the big theme parks are even relatively safe at this point, probably more than your average grocery store.

Normally, in school, Simon would have two teachers, an ESE teacher in the room part-time, a staffing specialist and counselor all working together on his behalf, but this doesn't translate well to the remote scenario. The bigger problem is that, for whatever reason, he doesn't really respect us to help him learn, which is endlessly frustrating for everyone. I can't explain why, because Diana is there to see precisely how the material is being delivered, so it's not like she's trying to help with common core math being sent home for homework. I think it's just the parent dynamic that every kid feels out, looking to test the boundaries but also count on us for rescues when things are difficult or uncomfortable.

We'll see how it goes the first week of January. I'm relatively comfortable with the risk, and hopefully teachers and staff get vaccinated sooner than later. I just want the kid to be led by professional educators. I hope that he can wear a mask all day, because with his sensory issues, I worry that it will be difficult.


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