WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — While the debate about reopening schools rages on, there’s a sector of students that complicate the decision even more — special education students.
Special ed students may require additional in-person services which may put both the students and teachers at higher risk. That makes the question of whether or not to return to the classroom especially difficult for parents and teachers of special ed students.
Lynne Grosenth, a special ed teacher who attended a White House event to advocate for special ed students to return to class, said those students may have a hard time adjusting to a virtual setting.
“It’s just critical to get them back safely,” Grosenth said. “They could have physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech. It’s so much better for those students to have that therapist with them.”
But she said many special ed students also have a higher risk of COVID-19 complications.
“Many are also categorized with multiple disabilities so they can have medical issues as well,” she said.
Some special ed students can’t wear masks and the hands-on interactions required increases the risk for teachers and therapists.
Around the country, some teachers are opting out of teaching for the year for their own — and their family’s — safety.
Asked what districts should do if they don’t have enough teachers for in-person and virtual options, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said, “All educators and families need to be focused on doing what’s right for kids.”
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the National Education Association, said that as schools reopen they’re preparing for a grim situation.
“Teachers all over the country are making out their wills,” she said. “They’re standardizing sympathy form letters. When a teacher or student dies from COVID, they’ll be ready to send them out.”