The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our public education system. All students and their families are experiencing learning challenges but, the public health emergency is shedding light on a pre-existing crisis in educational equity for vulnerable student groups.
Speaker 1: 00:00 How the pandemic is impacting vulnerable students. As soon as don’t feel safe, it’s going to be really difficult to learn. And, and right now there’s a lot of fear. I Mark sour, Infor Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS Midland And the longterm consequences of school closures on those vulnerable students. We’ll hear from the principal of the school for homeless students, from an expert on teaching English learners and from a parent with autistic children.
Speaker 2: 00:36 So it’s been very difficult to just facilitate the whole online learning thing. From my point of view, as a parent
Speaker 1: 00:43 Plus we’ll address audience questions on the pandemic and vulnerable students, that’s ahead on mid day edition,
Speaker 1: 01:01 The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on our public education system. Some elementary school districts in San Diego County are teaching in person. Some are exclusively online. The largest San Diego unified is beginning of phased, reopening by scheduling in person appointments for its neediest students, all students and their families are experiencing learning challenges because of the pandemic. But the public health emergency is shedding light on a preexisting crisis and educational equity for vulnerable student groups. Today, we’re bringing you a special program on midday edition delving into the longterm consequences of learning loss for students experiencing poverty, English, language learners, and students with special education needs. Here’s KPBS education reporter Joe Hong. Today I’ll be speaking with three people who have dedicated their lives to working with students most vulnerable, to falling behind during distance learning. First, I want to go to the TC Aguilar, who is a single mother of two sons on the autism spectrum. The TCR at your sons are still doing virtual learning. Tell me a little bit, tell us a little bit about what a typical day looks like for you and your sons.
Speaker 2: 02:08 Well, um, my sons are in the mod severe program with San Diego unified school district. So, um, they’re still doing virtual learning. Um, I’m teaching as well at the same time as they’re on virtual learning. So basically it’s like, um, it’s a show. Um, I will be online and my son’s kind of will get online at around 11 or 12 and they’re on there with their teachers. Luckily my older son is very independent, so he can somewhat, you know, function and do the online learning. But my younger son needs extra support to just interact with the teachers. He still doesn’t somewhat understand that this is school, school’s on the computer and at home. So he requires a lot of support, but because I’m teaching around the same times that he’s online on the computer, I have to like pick and choose what times he can participate, what he can and can’t do. So it’s been very difficult to just facilitate the whole online learning thing from, you know, my point of view as a parent.
Speaker 3: 03:07 And, um, you’re, you’re also a special education teacher. Uh, has that been helpful? Has your training been helpful in working with your sons right now?
Speaker 2: 03:14 I was a paraeducator four or five years before I was, I am a education specialist. So, um, that in itself was very helpful. This is actually my first year teaching and I’m first year teaching in a pandemic, which, um, makes, you know, the whole first year where you feel like you don’t know anything even worse. Like you really feel like you don’t know anything. So, um, it’s just, it’s been difficult, but I am also thankful that I do have this training because I know how to work with my children. You know, I know the strategies, I know the accommodations, I know the modifications, I know what works best for them. And it makes me, you know, feel empathetic towards parents who have, you know, zero to, you know, little, very little experience in special education. And, you know, I wonder how they’re facilitating this program in their homes, you know, because it’s, it’s hard for me as an educator. I can, you know, not even imagine what it’s like for somebody who’s never done this before.
Speaker 3: 04:10 And so what are you hearing from your parents, from the parents of your students? What are their experiences like right now?
Speaker 2: 04:19 I have not heard from my parents yet because it’s actually my first year teaching. Um, my first week actually, sorry. Um, I came on late to the school year, but I do know a lot of parents in the disabled community and a lot of them are very frustrated with the whole online learning situation. They feel like their kids aren’t really getting much out of the curriculum and they somewhat feel left out of the loop with what, you know, the plan is going forward with everything. Um, a lot of things that I hear are that parents just want to know, there’s kind of like an end in sight. There’s like an end game that their kids are going to go back to school. And, um, you know, I somewhat try to help them with what I can and, you know, help support them in what they need, but it’s, it’s still a big task to do.
Speaker 3: 05:04 I I’m curious. So this might sort of be an obvious question for a parent of, of students with special needs, but what makes distance learning hard for, for your sons? In particular?
Speaker 2: 05:15 My sons require a lot of like, um, visual prompting, a lot of verbiage, verbal prompting, a lot of, um, things like a paraprofessional. And I do not have those at home or, you know, I’m kind of teaching on the go. Sometimes I go where the area’s the quietest and, and we’re in different locations. So, um, sometimes like just the verbal prompting, the visual prompting, the extra assistance, I don’t have that. And that’s what makes it difficult. Um, you know, the art, my son’s teacher has been very good with, you know, giving ideas of how we can facilitate these things. But I know like if I didn’t have the experience in special education, I might not be able to, you know, make the visuals and do the things that need to be done
Speaker 3: 06:04 At this point. I want to bring in, uh, Jorge Cordova, Santiana into the conversation. He works for the County office of education and serves as a resource for teachers of English, language learners, uh, Jorge. Um, what have the teachers you work with told you about the challenges they face in teaching English?
Speaker 4: 06:23 A lot of English learning is actually acquisition and that’s a distinction that we make an education that’s really important. So acquisition means that you’re going through a phase of picking up the language by interacting with other people. Whereas learning is the moment in which there’s some kind of formal instruction and you might be doing something that’s more just associated from genuine communication, but it’s actually authentic dialogue that makes the most difference. And depending on which school district teachers find themselves in, there might be some challenges in grading opportunities where students can actually talk with one another and have that genuine opportunity to be able to learn English by interacting and collaborating. And so that’s probably one of our biggest difficulties right now is we don’t have the same opportunities for what we call aura C or a C is oral language development, the equivalent of literacy, which is super important for English learners.
Speaker 3: 07:15 So how, uh, how did the, how did the services and individual individual attention English learners usually get during the school year sort of compare it to what they’re getting now?
Speaker 4: 07:24 Well, you can imagine like everything else, we have a shorter day, which means of course that the amount of time on task for different subject areas is not probably what it used to be. We always had a requirement for English learners to have designated English language development. That’s a period of time in which English learners are actually grouped together and provided instruction in and about English for the level of proficiency that they find themselves in right now that’s rendered a lot more difficult in terms of the challenges with grouping students, with distance learning. And also a teacher has to squeeze in other subject areas. Now designated ELD is actually a requirement for students it’s of course, subject Tara. So definitely students are receiving it, but whereas before we would have the opportunity for spontaneous interactions, dialogue, physical concrete items in front of the students, those things are not as available or a readily picked up by students in a distance learning format because everything is of course, less tangible.
Speaker 3: 08:27 And is there a concern that distance learning will delay ultimately delay the language acquisition and sort of have these longterm?
Speaker 4: 08:35 Perfect? Well, that’s an interesting question because right now, uh, the state testing is of course on, on hiatus as we try to get through the crisis. And so the comparison of data will be difficult. Anyway, I’m still a believer in the resiliency of children and the ability of youth to also, um, make the best use of their assets. The more we believe students and make it possible for them to have opportunities. The more likely they will get through this crisis and actually accelerate their learning as opportunities arise and things begin to return to normal. I don’t think students are necessarily a broken permanently. So I know the term learning loss is out there from the state, but we try to focus on acceleration and the belief that our students will actually get back to par once we’re together, you can imagine in the future that we would offer interventions and opportunities for students to catch up in ways that are hopefully more intensive. If we are to receive the kind of funding that we need in our school systems, once everything starts to recover, I would think that there would be chances for students to get individualized support and more intensive support for English acquisition to make up for the time that they didn’t have it now.
Speaker 3: 09:44 And, uh, just one follow up to that. Um, uh, you mentioned those special programs. What, what would those sort of look like?
Speaker 4: 09:51 Well, I kind of thing that students would get for supplemental education would be summer opportunities, afterschool opportunities, intercession, which means the dates in which there isn’t school going on. So those kinds of opportunities are still going to be real for us during distance learning, but they’re all the better when you’re able to do things in person. So rather than thinking about teaching English in isolation, you can think about students acquiring English and more genuine ways for doing projects that actually matter to them. Perhaps there’s a project that has to do with, uh, recovering the environment and their local community, perhaps restoring the watershed, or there could be projects for building robots. There could also be projects that have students grading poetry or doing a theater for their community and presenting it for example, in places where there are retirement communities, so they can watch the students perform. These are the kinds of enriching activities that allows students to really genuinely use the language for a purpose that has a real value in the lives of, of their community.
Speaker 3: 10:50 And, and so teachers, uh, often talk about the need to form interpersonal bonds with their students. And I imagine for language acquisition, that’s, that’s quite important. And so that has to be much more difficult over zoom, right?
Speaker 4: 11:05 We can’t sugar coat. The fact that we have a situation now, uh, uh, that is really untenable for most teachers, the majority have joined this profession because they really care about kids and youth. And so they’re, they gravitate towards the interaction and the natural human development that we have when we are in charge of helping students do what they need to do to become a fully competent, uh, eventually adults, but also just a model citizens and, and democratic participants. So that part is really hard for us. Uh, right now, if I’m talking to you in a different language, it would seem all the more, uh, odd. And, uh, it’s really strange to have a teacher that’s only there virtually in front of you. And you can imagine what it’s like for a student. Who’s very new to the language to see this person to not understanding what saying when
Speaker 5: 11:54 They’re showing frowns or, or lines of concern on their face. So, yeah, it’s super hard. And, uh, luckily most teachers are super empathetic and they are really building their social emotional work right now around getting the communities to bond, to getting to know individual students and to doing their best, to actually form relationships that make of learning possible.
Speaker 3: 12:17 Uh, Mike Perez is also joining us. Um, he’s the principal at the Monarch school, which focuses on serving students who have experienced homelessness when the pandemic first hit, you signed your staff members to be case managers to the families of your students. Uh, Mike, can you tell me, um, how that has helped with those essential connections that Corey was talking about?
Speaker 5: 12:38 Yeah. I can’t take all the credit for that. Something that’s really unique about Monarch school is that we work in a partnership. Uh, we’re a San Diego County office of education school that works in close partnership with a nonprofit called the Monarch school project. And so on March 13th, that a day that all of us we’ll, uh, we’ll just have that. It’ll be an ingrained in our minds forever. Our team got together and, um, decided to, to identify families, um, who would need immediate support. In fact, every single one of our families, we have nearly 175 families here at Monarch representing about 300 students. We’re a K through 12 school. They were, they were assigned to two staff members, uh, from the Monarch school project. Uh, so that immediately we can begin, we could begin providing some supports, uh, with basic needs to our families. And that all started March 16th. So we were getting ready on March 13th, talking about how important relationships would be, and then, um, begin providing some began providing support to our families beginning on that first Monday. And that’s been critical, Joe just been critical. I mean, and that’s, and that’s what the entire team has done. And, and, and, and just replicated our teaching staff, our classroom support staff, the Monarch project staff, the community that supports our school. Um, the number one thing has been relationships.
Speaker 3: 14:02 Can, can you say a little more about what those case managers do to help the students? Um, how do they support learning?
Speaker 5: 14:09 Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, initially when we all went into closure, you know, the thinking that was that we might just be closed for a few weeks. So initially the goal was what can we do to provide that support to get through the next few weeks? Because so many of our families are so closely connected to our school. Some of our families got, uh, had some housing needs and they got put into some, some, uh, temporary housing situations and some nearby hotels we’ve been continued to reach out our case. Managers are reaching out a couple of times per week minimum to our families to see if there are any immediate needs, making sure that if there are any connection issues, uh, technology needs kind of serving as liaisons, sometimes between myself and other staff members just providing that support and that connection to the families, our families are able to come up to the school site on schedule distribution days, uh, to, uh, to receive academic support material, hygiene products, a lunch, uh, well-rounded lunch and, and gift cards, uh, so that they can make, you know, we can ensure that the family is able to go shopping and, and, uh, and, and acquire whatever it is that they need.
Speaker 5: 15:19 Uh, during this difficult time
Speaker 1: 15:21 And across the board, parents, educators, they’re all worried about, you know, students, how they’re going to be one in person learning, resumed. Um, are they gonna fall back academically and sort of emotionally as well?
Speaker 5: 15:37 Can you explain a little more about some of the unique concerns that you have with the students that you work with? Yeah. I love to talk on that. And I think that, um, you know, earlier, um, both at TCO and Jorge mentioned some things that I think all of us are worried about. You know, we’ve got families who are experiencing their own turmoil, right? We have families that have lost jobs, families that are continued, parents that are continuing to work, and then also, you know, serve as caregivers to their children and even teachers at home. And then we also have, you know, the, the emotional supports, you know, Jorge talked about all the work that’s being done by a lot of our educators around social, emotional learning and how critical that has been thankfully, what, what, what we’re seeing and what we’re trying to prepare for is how we can continue to utilize some of the tools that, that we have at Monarch.
Speaker 5: 16:23 And I know other schools are doing the same providing counseling support. We have therapists, a team of therapists, uh, here at Monarch that have been able to provide teletherapy to some of our, to some of our students and to some of our parents and families. Um, that’s, that’s, that’s like the most, I think like that’s our primary focus right now is how are we going to be able to provide that type of support as soon as come back to, to our school sites? Because learning is one thing we have students that are engaging in the academics. We have some students that, that, that are having a more difficult time, but they need to feel connected. You know, I think those of us who are in education, we know that as soon as they don’t feel safe, it’s going to be really difficult to learn. And, and right now there’s a lot of fear and that fear is justified. [inaudible],
Speaker 1: 17:20 I’m Mark Sauer, you’re listening to KPBS mid day edition today. We’re bringing you a special program on how the Corona virus is impacting learning among vulnerable student groups. We’ll hear from Leticia Avalara, a single parent of two children on the autism spectrum and a special education teacher and Jorge Quavis auntie own San Diego County office of education’s advisor on curriculum and instruction for English learners, here’s KPBS education reporter Joe Hong speaking with Mike Perretti, the principal
Speaker 3: 17:50 Of a San Diego school with students affected by homelessness from kindergarten through 12th grade. And so my understanding is that at Monarch, you have 20% of your students not only have experienced homelessness, but also have a disability. Um, can you say a little bit about how those students have been impacted and sort of the additional obstacles that you face serving them?
Speaker 5: 18:15 Yeah, that’s, that’s correct, Joe. Uh, we have, uh, approximately 20% of our students, um, have special needs. And, um, we do, we do have a strong team of educators and classroom support staff that have been able to connect with our students to meet their extra instructional needs based on their IEP. And so that sometimes means breakout sessions with special educators and paraeducators, um, uh, reaching out via phone, um, you know, connecting on, on things like classroom dojo, whatever it takes. Um, and that’s, I think that’s been the obstacle that most educators are facing right now is we want to connect, you know, through whatever means possible, you know, making phone calls, emails, um, you know, Google hangout and, um, you know, the cha the challenge I think is that, is that we’re missing that physical connection with our students, but we’re doing everything we can to maintain that daily connection. And our special educators are doing a great job and our paraeducators as well.
Speaker 3: 19:23 And on that note, I want to circle back to Lutetia, um, and ask, you know, as a, as a parent and as distance learning continues, what additional supports do you need from your school?
Speaker 2: 19:37 Um, I like personally, my son’s school has been like amazing. So, um, we do have, you know, the related services still. We do have the speech, we still have the occupational therapy, the ape, like all of our supports are still in place. Um, but in my situation, it’s just like the scheduled times that these things are happening. I’m not available to do them, so my children are missing out on those times. So, I mean, just maybe like more opportunities, um, throughout the week to engage in these activities and maybe not just have it so set that, you know, only on nine o’clock, we’re going to get, you know, speech, maybe, you know, taking that into consideration that families have different, um, time schedules and, and that way kids can fully engage in their right.
Speaker 3: 20:23 Is scheduling, has that been an issue as a teacher as well?
Speaker 2: 20:26 In my, in my experience, no, we, we have like a shortened day. So, you know, the children have office hours. They have, and this isn’t high school though. So, um, the children have office hours. They have different ways that they can get in touch with the teacher to get the support that they need, or a paraprofessional, or, you know, me and education specialist. There are plenty of opportunities, but, you know, it’s kind of not the same for the elementary school. You know, my children, their situation, isn’t the same. There isn’t, you know, many opportunities for us to, you know, get the services that we need. It’s just like these set times. And I mean, I get it, it’s a time constraint when teaching, you know, there’s so much to get through in the day, but I just think maybe, you know, there should be more opportunities.
Speaker 3: 21:10 And so for you, Mike, how does, uh, how has teaching been working at, at Monarch? Um, has it been fully virtual or are you also relying a bit on, you know, uh, paper packets?
Speaker 5: 21:26 So, so like a lot of schools have done initially, um, because we were lacking connectivity and devices. Cause we weren’t, we were not a one-to-one school prior to the closure. Um, we did have to provide academic enrichment packets and, and paperwork, but thankfully, uh, because of, you know, the, the, I guess the support, the support that we’ve received from the San Diego County office of education and the support from the Monarch school project, um, we’ve been able to provide students with devices, one-to-one devices. So every single one of our students had a device as of April. Um, that, that, that first week of April, we were able to provide all of our students with, with the device. Now connectivity was a difficulty, but there was a strong commitment has been a strong commitment from our motto Monarch school project partners to acquire hotspot devices. So thankfully we’re a hundred percent connected.
Speaker 5: 22:25 Now, sometimes that number fluctuates because there are situations where families are moving and they may have been able to have wifi at one point and then they need a hotspot. Um, but teaching has been virtual since April. Um, it continues to be virtual. Everything has to be a distance learning. We do, uh, provide our students with additional materials as needed. They need paper material that’s provided to them. It’s helpful to have that, especially given the needs of some of our younger students, having that, the ability to do some, you know, paper to pencil tasks, that’s critical to their learning as well. So I, you know, I I’m, I’m so honored and, and, and, and grateful for the work that our teams have done our Monarch school project team, our Sago County office of education team here at Monarch, how they’ve been able to work collaboratively collaboratively to make sure that our kids’ needs are being met.
Speaker 3: 23:17 And, and how are you, how are you trying to improve that experience for students?
Speaker 5: 23:22 I mean, there’s a lot of cool things I could talk about what’s happening with our K five, you know, in our K five community. Cause I’ve kind of felt like we have like three schools in one, our K five, our middle school and our high school, you know, with our littles, you know, the majority of nearly all of our, of our elementary school teachers have a little, they have their Bitmoji classroom. They want to make things feel really cool and engaging for our kids. Um, our K through three, uh, teaching team is using Seesaw. The rest of our grade levels are using Google classroom, but it’s not just the platform. It’s making sure that we’re, we’re creating schedules like Leticia was saying that that worked for families and, and, and, and, and, and having some flexibility, um, for our high school, our high school students, our high school teachers, um, you know, I’ve been, been really mindful of some of the, the needs of our oldest students.
Speaker 5: 24:11 Um, we’re typically on a semester schedule and they’re out of the box thinking was well, let’s, let’s split our semester up into triads so that our students only have to focus on two classes at a time versus the six classes at a time that would be overwhelming. Anybody who’s taken a class online knows it’s really hard to focus on one class at a time, let alone six, that’s been extremely helpful, Joe, the out of the box thinking and the support that we’re getting to be out of the box from the County, and then having a partner in this work, like the Monarch school project to help support and provide funding for that.
Speaker 3: 24:46 Nope, no matter how much education during the pandemic, you know, might have improved distance learning will obviously never be as good as the in person experience. And at the early stages of the pandemic, educators talked a lot about learning loss and regression, and we’ve sort of touched on those topics during this conversation as well. Um, I want to ask all three of you, you know, what are your longterm concerns, uh, for one week go back in person for the years ahead with TC, I guess we’ll start with you. Uh, what are some of the longterm concerns for you?
Speaker 2: 25:23 Um, for my sons, I kind of was afraid about the academic loss, um, you know, especially, you know, with their disabilities and what’s going on, but I was very surprised that when, you know, they started engaging in the online learning. They were quick to just go back to where, you know, where they were, it was easy for them, you know, to get back into, you know, this is what I’m doing. This is my learning. You know, this is my academics, but like the thing that scares me the most is, um, the routine of just switching from online back to whatever type of in school learning we’re going to have. That’s what I feel is going to be the hardest, you know, in my situation as a parent is, um, just that extended amount of time being back home, how that’s gonna affect them when we do go back into online learning, whatever the, I mean in person or learning, whatever that environment is.
Speaker 3: 26:13 And Jorge, um, I want to on that note, I want to circle back to something you said earlier about testing beyond being on hiatus. And, you know, I, as, as an education reporter, I rely a lot on, on data on the data that the state publishes and English learner data as part of that. And I guess, do you have longterm concerns about if we put testing on hiatus, how will we know just how much work there is left to do or how much work educators have to do to accelerate that learning when we come back?
Speaker 4: 26:49 So, uh, I will tell you that the, uh, the framework for the state, the California department of ed, uh, framework for English, language arts and English language development, it has a chapter dedicated to assessment. And what it tells you is that the priority of assessment is teacher assessment, formative assessment, where they make the decision, and they’re the professional that can figure out what the student needs, how much this student has acquired and, uh, how to proceed. We do have a system that has a quarterly assessments in some districts and schools. We have a state system that relies on yearly data in order to report things for funding streams. Um, but I do believe in the power of professionals, making a judgment call about what students need to actually get from them to continue to improve their English proficiency. Now, I’m, I’m also a teacher myself, because I teach at San Diego state university for a future teacher credential candidates.
Speaker 4: 27:45 And one thing that’s sort of being missed. I feel horrible for all of these teacher credential candidates who are not having a normal experience of having kids around them in the classroom. There’s a lot of human development that has to do with just kind of going into a classroom, managing a group of 20 young people or 25 and 30 in some cases, and knowing how to deal with the humanity of this. So I think that’s a concern of mine that I still have a higher ed and not having the normal teaching, uh, credentialing experience that you would go through. Um, that being said, uh, I still am a believer that students are able to achieve a lot when we provide additional opportunities. And what matters to me is that we continue to provide a strong investment in public education, and that we think about equity and distribution of funding and the society and the way taxation works so that we can ensure that our students who have the highest need students who are migrant students, who are homeless students, who are transnational students, who are refugees, students who are English learners, students are special ed.
Speaker 4: 28:51 We need a system that includes funding for equity sake. That is not distributing dollars just because, but really thinking about their, their needs. So in that respect, I’m with you, Joe, that assessments sometimes tell us where kids need and we need data, but we also need to believe in the professionals on doing their best under the circumstances.
Speaker 3: 29:13 And now going to go into Mike, uh, what are some of your concerns that some, uh, challenges that you foresee down the, down the pipeline in the next several years,
Speaker 4: 29:24 The learning loss is for you? I, you know, I think none of us can deny that, you know, it’s, it’s, um, it’s, the challenge is going to be, you know, how we, how we bounce back. And to be honest, I think all of us could probably agree distance learning that the type of learning platforms that we’re using right now, they’re not going away anytime soon, either just because of how we’re going to be able to safely navigate moving forward. And so it’s felt like we’re, we’re building the plane as we fly it. I think a lot of us have felt that way. Um, you know, my wife, my wife’s a teacher and I’m seeing her in her kindergarten class, do this all the time. And I’m hearing from her and I believe it about all of our students at Monarch, that what we’re doing right now, it, it, it doesn’t, it doesn’t mirror what we were able to do with our students in person.
Speaker 4: 30:13 And so I really, you know, it’s hard to say, I know the time’s going to tell, I know that our S that, that all of our teachers across the County, across the nation right now are doing their best to assess our students’ individual learning needs. And that’s hard to do virtually that’s hard to do when you’re, when you’re distant. So it’s like a question that’s unanswered. And I think we’re going to see how that’s going to play out over the next few years. If I may, I do want to also look at the glass being half full, because I don’t think we’ve had this much technology just stupid it’s so equitably across the system. It normally is the case that high poverty students do not have access the way they are being provided. Now they are becoming digital natives much sooner and in more profound ways than we had before.
Speaker 4: 30:57 Also, I know that teachers are learning all kinds of new strategies and apps and resources that they had not necessarily considered before, or were out of their reach and suddenly those doors are being opened. So I think we’re going to have a much richer classroom experience when kids come back, that we know that some of these tools and experiences will be useful for setting up us a situation that hopefully can defuse and more personalized learning for students. So I, I want to also just feel faith about, um, our, our system and our educators and our administrators doing what they can.
Speaker 1: 31:51 I’m Mark Sauer, you’re listening to KPBS mid day edition. We continue our broadcast of a KPBS special event about how the Corona virus is impacting learning among vulnerable student groups. This is a project of KPBS and the national conflict resolution center. The public health emergency is shedding light on a preexisting crisis and educational equity for students experiencing poverty, English, language learners, and students with special education needs. Here’s KPBS education reporter Joe Hong speaking with Monarch principal. Mike parade is parent and special education teacher, Leticia Avalara, and Jorge Quavis Anteon with the San Diego County office of education. Now I’d like to turn to some of the questions from the audience.
Speaker 3: 32:40 Um, this one is from Allie S and I think this one’s going to be for you, Mike. Um, what, what do you think about childcare and in-person camps that take place after
Speaker 4: 32:53 Online learning? I’m actually going to speak from firsthand experience? Um, I, I do personally think that some of those, those camps they’re there, they’re critical to the success of some of our students who can’t get some of those additional supports at home for whatever reason. I mean, I think we’ve all kind of spoken about the challenges that our parents have, you know, at home. So those camps actually, they, they feel, you know, that need, I mean, there’s, there’s, um, you know, some of the colleagues that are in the work, you know, with Monarch and have been strong partners in the past are, are looking for ways to fund learning pods for, for our students. So they can get that personal connection. That’s really hard to get, you know, even with the best teacher online. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s having that connection. And as long as it’s a safe environment, you know, and they’re, and they’re following the procedures and, you know, everything we know. So, so far about COVID, I’m all for those opportunities. And I appreciate those partners who are looking for those opportunities for our kids, because our kids need that as we prepare to return back to in-person,
Speaker 3: 33:59 I’m wondering the, if you have anything to weigh in as, as a parent, have you heard of any opportunities like, like camps or childcare opportunities for students with who might be on the autism spectrum or have a learning disability?
Speaker 4: 34:14 My kids were enrolled in primetime. Um, and the only thing that they have done was just extended it into a virtual, um, situation where they do supplement more education, more, you know, they help with all the homework and the skills, and it’s, it’s still on virtually, but it does help supplement some of those, you know, things that the kids aren’t getting in the classrooms, or it’s not enough time. They get the hell that they need. That’s all in my experience that also Joel or we do have nonprofits that are still supporting our schools that are our partners to us, that offer afterschool things. I myself, am on the board for a nonprofit dedicated to all things, affordable housing in our state, which is another crisis within our state, because we know that it takes more than just education. We need stable communities. And what I want to point out is that a lot of these partners such as community housing works, uh, which I support, uh, do offer, uh, programs for supplemental education in the afternoon. And they’re trying to figure out ways to also entertain students, because it matters to offer students, uh, chances that are beyond just academic learning. We need students to actually grow in their talents and all of the things that they actually love and embrace. And I also want to put a plug in for books. We’re still distributing books. We still care about kids writing, and it really matters to us that they’re actually exposed to something that’s in hard print. It, uh, is a critical for us. And
Speaker 5: 35:38 A lot of places are distributing books to our schools and we’re getting donations. We still would want more folks to give us more.
Speaker 3: 35:46 Yeah, you should never have too many books. Um, Mike, this one’s for you from Vanessa F is there a plan for students to return to onsite for Monarch?
Speaker 5: 35:56 So in regards to that question, we’ve been working on our prevention plan for return to learning, um, you know, for the, you know, for the past four or five months. And, um, you know, I know that as we all know, you know, it was just a couple of weeks ago where San Diego came off the watch list. The reality is that a lot of our families are still concerned about return to full, like in person learning, even in hybrid mode. So while we don’t have a date, yet we are going to be very mindful about how we return because our student’s safety is going to be number one. I mean, we’re, we’re seeing in the news, you know, the most well-intended, well, well thought out plans are still resulting in some of our schools having to close. And I know we don’t, we want to make sure that when we do return that our students are safe, um, our staff is safe, um, that our community stays safe. But I do expect that we will, uh, likely return in a very intentional phase, two model where we can provide students support in a minimal day fashion with a limited number of students on campus, uh, that are in stable cohorts. Um, so yeah, I don’t really have a clear date, but, um, but when we do it’s, it’s going to be, it’s going to be safe as safe as we possibly can be.
Speaker 3: 37:20 Thank you, Mike. Uh, Latisha, how are you feeling about your son’s returning to school? Is that something that you’re, you’re not ready for, or you don’t feel safe about, or it can’t happen soon enough?
Speaker 2: 37:33 I’m all about the safety, but my sons are in very small class sizes because they are in a mod severe classroom. Um, I am, you know, open for them to go back to school in a phased way, um, because, uh, you know, as a special needs parent, and especially like a single parent, the school provides like a support system for you that, you know, it just felt like it got ripped away, kind of, um, you know, the teachers know your kids very well. The parents know your kids very well. All their related service providers know your kids and to kind of like have that taken away, you feel a little bit alone. So I am for them going back and, you know, seeing all these people again and getting their supports as well, but doing it, you know, in the safest way possible. And I think for every parent, there is no right or wrong choice. You make the best choice for your children for your situation. So I’m, I’m for it.
Speaker 3: 38:28 Jorge. Um, how are you working to, uh, keep those supports in place? The supports that TC mentioned
Speaker 4: 38:36 The County office of education is working in collaboration with all of the school districts in a task force that is actually watching what the health ramifications are as, as options are opening up and being very cautious about it. They have a very strong plans in place. Um, I can only speak on, on behalf of myself when I say that I’m looking forward to widespread of widespread testing. I believe it’s necessary part of what will be the future society. I’m, I’m looking forward to, uh, the next, uh, federal government administration to take a serious look at widespread testing. And to also ensure that we have a vaccination available, um, much like we expect to have any other kind of a disease that we follows our, our kids as they come to school just to meet everybody say, so I think we need to proceed with a lot of caution as Mike and the TCSA. We, we are very interested in re regaining normalcy, but not at cost of children’s lives or the lives of our educators and administrators. So I would say that we need to pay attention to what the science is telling us about that and to notice what’s happening in places that weren’t well-prepared as they did. So,
Speaker 3: 39:46 And so how, how can we make sure though, that parents and teachers have the supports while we continue to distance learning?
Speaker 4: 39:54 One way is to think of checking in with, um, teachers, the way you do with your kids. You, you need to deal with the social emotional first. We’re going through a lot of trauma as individuals. We’re no different just because we’re professionals. The differences though, we need to be in a situation where we get past the grief of our, of our situation and inspire hope and inspire commitment and, and espouse, uh, joy of learning in our classroom. These things matter even more now than they did before. It’s all of the art of teaching besides having materials and the means, and these are the things that we need to look forward to because we need to build resiliency by checking in our, our, our way of approaching students, but also taking care of our own humanity as we do. So those are the best kind of administrative and district policies that can be said. It’s just making sure that people are happy and healthy as employees just like we take care of our kids.
Speaker 3: 40:56 Leticia. I want to ask you, do you have any advice for parents with students with special needs? Um, considering you’re both a teacher and a parent,
Speaker 2: 41:06 I would just like to say that, like, you know, a lot of parents kind of feel like their child’s teacher kind of left them out. You know, like sometimes they feel like they are left out, but I just want them to know that like we are in the same situation, you are, we are trying our best to provide you and your child with support. And, you know, we have our own situations at home going on, but like, as an educator, we will put the students, you know, at the same level as our families, like we are a hundred percent there for you. And, um, another advice is, do not hesitate to contact your child’s teacher with any questions, concerns, you know, you can even let them know how your day was going. Like, we are always open to hear anything. And that’s something that my, you know, my son’s teacher does is like, she’ll start the zoom and she’ll be like, Hey parents, how are you doing today? Like just being, you know, you can talk to your child’s teacher about anything, like, do not hesitate to ask. We are always there to help you.