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The SPED program in a pandemic

The SPED (Special Education) program is a program that helps students with special needs at HR. SPED has the opportunity to look at each and every child to consider their strengths and challenges, helping to fill the gaps in their access to education.  

This year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SPED has looked a lot different than it has in previous years.  The students in the program have been back in-person four days a week since January. But some students have chosen to do E-Learning and use a platform called Edgenuity. The teachers have to teach both in-person and E-Learners at the same time. 

When the school became fully online in the fall, Matthew Fullerton, junior, said, “It was harder because I wasn’t with my friends and teachers.” Many students in this program feel the exact same way with the restrictions that this pandemic had on their learning experience. 

One of the restrictions that COVID-19 has on students is masks. Many of the students have medical conditions that make masks hard to wear. Daisha Archer, Significant Support Needs teacher, said, “Masks can be challenging because many of our students have some medical needs and it can cause wearing a mask to be difficult.” Many of the students have medical conditions that make masks hard to wear, such as heart conditions. Additionally, masks can also worsen the anxiety students may feel. Also social communication is hard with a mask, and a lot of the students in this program struggle with social skills, so for some masks have been a major social boundary. 

Daisha Archer describes how we need to be more respectful toward SPED students during the pandemic. Graphic by Katarina Baylett

The students also can’t help the community in the ways they used to in previous years. The teachers used to help the students in SPED with many things, like how to fly on airplanes by themselves, how to find jobs, or just how to ask for help when they need it, which they can’t do right now due to the pandemic. That also changes what they do in some of their classes. They can no longer run the Coffee Cart, where they used to go classroom to classroom selling coffee, recycling, or help in the lunchroom with wiping down tables.

SPED students are constantly learning and adapting to this new normal, but having the rest of the students fully in person with them will hopefully bring some familiarity back into their daily lives. Archer said, “This pandemic is not simply a shift in the level of restriction we have, or a shift in schedule, it truly is impacting kids at a social and emotional level.” 

Katarina Baylett, Staff Reporter

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The SPED program in a pandemic