Parents of students with IEP accommodations concerned about upcoming school year

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – News 3 is hearing from a parent who has a child with a learning disability. Many students with Individualized Learning Programs (IEP) are facing unique challenges now that school is starting off online.

Parents are concerned with how their students with learning disabilities will still receive individual help while they are learning from home. Chatham County school leaders are telling News 3 that students will still get the help they need.

News 3 spoke with Savannah-Chatham County School System parent Toni Garza who says she has a high school student who has an IPE accommodation.

“He had his brain injury when he was two-years-old so his brain wasn’t fully developed,” Garza said.

Garza has three children in the Savannah-Chatham County School System. She says her teenage son has always done well in school but he needs a lot of prompting to get his work done. He will start his senior year at Jenkins High School. Garza’s son follows a custom program developed by the school and his parents to address specific needs. In his case, he gets extra time for testing due to his brain injury as a child.

Garza said when schools abruptly transitioned online in the spring working and teaching became a juggling act. Now that classes will be online again to start the school year IEP accommodation concerns are mounting for parents.

“Mostly with everybody it’s just making sure the schools contacting them and having that communication with the school,” Garza said.

Associate Superintendent for Learning Support Services Dr. Kimberly Hancock said every student with an IEP will have a plan to address how accommodations will be implemented into a virtual setting.

“I believe with our new learning management system that we purchased and our personalized plans that students with IEP’s we’ll be able to bring it all together,” Dr. Hancock said. “During this time we have to partner together. The new learning management system will allow our teachers to better be able to teach virtually into the home. It is not going to look exactly like regular school all day. We wouldn’t expect a five-year-old to sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day that’s not developmentally appropriate.”

While some say they had different experiences in the spring Garza’s son still got the help he needed.

“It was very comforting having his teacher email me every day. It is just checking in. How is he doing? Is he getting his work done?” Garza said.

Dr. Hancock told News 3 every student with an IEP will follow the same plan doing online learning but will also still have their accommodations. Students throughout the school district will have access to teachers virtually.

“The teachers will work closely with the families during this time,” Dr. Hancock said.

Another way the district is helping is by putting phone hotlines in place to support parents who need resources. You can request behavior or academic support. The hotlines will be open Monday-Friday with trained special education staff answering the phones. Dr. Hancock said she believes this was the missing link during the spring semester.

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