Long Beach Unified School District officials are working toward establishing in-person educational services for students with disabilities.
An announcement stating the district’s intentions was emailed to parents with special needs students on Thursday, and came one day after nearly 100 parents and children protested in front of the school district’s office, in part due to LBUSD’s announcement that it will stick with distance learning until Jan. 28, 2021
The email stated that it was working with local health officials, labor partners, including the city’s teachers’ association, to create strategies in which the district could safely offer these services—as was recently permitted by state and local health officials so long as the district followed strict health rules.
But, when or what that would look like is yet to be determined. “We don’t yet have a firm date when that might occur,” said LBUSD spokesman Chris Eftychiou over email.
The district is currently considering which age groups may be considered for in-person instruction, but little else was revealed about the structure or types of services to be offered.
Christine Kelly, President of the Teachers Association of Long Beach, the city’s teachers’ union, said that during her meeting with the superintendent weeks prior, on Sept. 9, Jill Baker stated that although the district wasn’t actively pursing in-person instruction, they had considered some options.
“It would be very small ratios, perhaps maybe a speech teacher with one or two students,” Kelly said about her conversation with Baker. “They would be providing the services that were required by an IEP that could not be provided at home. She really stressed that there’s no timeline for that right now, that’s just if this should happen these are the things that we’re thinking about.”
The range of services the district offers special needs students with Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, is vast and depends on the students particular needs. A student with dyslexia would be allowed extra time on a test, while a student with cerebral palsy requires constant one-on-one support.
Under the guidelines posed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and state health officials, a maximum of 16 individuals (14 students and two adults) may gather in a room together, and must be physically distanced.
“Think of how many of our kids have one-to-one aid. It’s not a like a neat little package of one, first grade class,” said TALB executive director, Chris Callopy.
“You’ve got special education kids that have all these different services that have all these different providers that would be really difficult to say we’re going to throw X amount of kids together.”
It’s also a question of whether or not teachers would return to the classroom to teach.
“How do you run something like this in a manner that puts safety first? We certainly don’t feel like it’s safe enough for people to go,” Callopy said.
Callopy attributed this to laissez-faire mask wearing habits and shared spaces like toilets and offices on campuses.
“So we knew we were in this weird space, but ultimately, the organization’s position was, we need to think of this as a public health crisis. It’s not about loss of education,” he said.
Callopy added that LBUSD and the TALB will be meeting on Oct. 5 and imagines that conversations will include talks about the district’s plans.