Today is the first day of school—and Grace’s first day ever at this remote school. There have been several technical difficulties throughout the day. We can’t get to her classes from her district-issued device, so she’s using her personal computer. She can’t get into any of the Google docs because she’s not using her school device. Some of her classes don’t even have teachers yet, because the school’s enrollment ballooned over the past two weeks and there aren’t enough teachers for all the students. But by far the hardest thing to deal with so far today is the lack of accommodations.
Our main reason for returning to the school district (not homeschooling) was to get Grace’s vision services back. Her vision has deteriorated considerably over the last year and a half (since the last time she was in-person at school), and she really, REALLY needs help now. Many of her teachers have asked for the kids to read and write today, and she just can’t. She can’t really find what she’s supposed to read, and since she refused to learn to type, she can’t really answer questions in chat either.
When Grace was first enrolled in this remote school, I reached out to anyone I could find to ask about accommodations. I discovered pretty quickly that there wasn’t a special ed teacher, and really there wasn’t anyone in charge of special ed either. Eventually, I was able to get in a group email with the assistant principal and counselor, and I sent her IEP and health plan to those folks. I stopped worrying about accommodations, thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be as big of a deal at remote school. Turns out they are a huge deal.
In many ways, the accommodations listed in her IEP really don’t apply to remote school. Things like preferential seating and large print are emphasized, but there’s really no mention of how technology can be used to help her. This is a huge oversight, I now realize. Her former TVI tried to help her use technology but it never really made it into the IEP, at least not to the extent where it would be legally protected now.
Starting at a new school is always difficult, but there is an extra layer of difficulty with the missing accommodations. We had such an easy time with the SPED staff at her old school—they were always so easy to work with. I miss them now; it has not proven to be easy to work with the new school, though that’s mostly because of staffing issues. However, I’m sure we can get through any obstacles that are in our path. We have overcome so much already as it is!
We have always had to rewrite the books for Grace. Now it looks like we’ll have to rewrite the IEP accommodations, too. I hope her new school is up for the task. Legally, the district has to accommodate her, and hopefully they will choose to provide those accommodations at the remote school. Overall, it seems like the school will be a good fit for her—as long as they work with her disabilities.
Here’s to a new school year and a new set of challenges!