DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Many families are deciding whether to send their children back to school full time or try a certain amount of virtual school, but DD2 says students with special needs are potentially planning a little differently.
While DD2 says all models, like AA, BB-day hybrid choices and virtual are inclusive for everyone, they hope children with more severe special needs can come to school five days a week.
According to DD2 policy, students with special needs can come to school from ages three to 21 to receive special services.
Dorchester District Two offers speech, physical, occupational, and behavioral therapy and they say students’ needs range in severity and some pupils rely on the therapy provided in school.
Although about 1,633 students in DD2 have Speech Individual Education Plans and approximately 515 receive occupational therapy only about 150 receive physical therapy in school, DD2 says.
DD2's Executive Director for Special Services, Dr. Antonia Cappelletti, says about 50% of students with special needs plan to come full time right now. She says lots of parents have expressed that they want their child to have their normal therapy sessions back, whether it's in person or virtual.
The district says they plan to keep groups of children who are receiving therapy in the same classes. "We don't want to co-mingle the students. So our scheduling is going to look more centered on class sets of children, if that makes sense," Cappelletti said.
The District says this is order to cut down on people coming in and out of classrooms and to reduce hallway mingling.
All services for children with individual education plans will be met, the district ensured.
"We hope to get in at least one time with the students who need, I'll say physical therapy. If the parent is willing and the virus is safe, because we need to maybe adjust their braces, we need to adjust a wheelchair, a positioning and so forth and so on," Cappelletti said. "So on a case by case basis, we will ask families to at some point to bring the children in to have that family therapeutic kind of supportive guide approach."
For other services, like speech therapy, the district says they have ordered clear, see-through masks for children and therapists participating in speech therapy.
As for families with children with special needs who choose to stay virtual, the district says they are trying to make sure they still see their same therapist they would normally see.
DD2 says all therapists received tele-therapy training over the summer.
"March, April, May was really not tele-therapy. There was a hybrid model of stay in touch, practice this, practice that. There is nothing like that now, it is very changed," Cappelletti said. "The training that we had is excellent for tele-therapy."
DD2 says they have met with many parents to discuss which services they plan to receive this year and how, but if they have not, Cappelletti says they will continue to conduct IEP meetings over the summer.
“If any parents with students with IEPs want to call, we’ll be more than happy to take the calls as they come in and try to answer the questions,” she said. “The decision is ultimately theirs. It’s a hard decision, so we just try to lay out the options, help them, guide them, to see what we can come up with.”