In masks debate, Arizona dad and mom fear over particular schooling college students
When COVID-19 forced thousands of families in Arizona to drop and drop off distance learning last school year, Sadie Derton struggled through the difficult and often desperate job of overseeing her two children’s online classes.
That year, Derton was ready to leave all of that behind and resume personal schooling for her two sons – until she found she couldn’t make sure the assistant, who worked closely with her children, was wearing a mask.
In Arizona, where state law prohibits masking requirements, schools cannot require employees to wear face covers.
That Derton, like many Arizona families with special school students, isn’t sure where to turn next. One of her sons has cat’s eye syndrome or Schmid-Fraccaro syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder. Her other seventh grade son has Down syndrome and has battled his way through collapsed lungs several times. He is vaccinated, but also immunocompromised, so the vaccine may not offer such reliable high protection against the coronavirus.
“We’ve tried practically every route,” says Derton, who describes hours of calls to administrators and meetings to think through solutions. “My children deserve to be able to leave the house and do an education.”
She is not alone. Parents of students in special education, many of whom fear a lost second year for students struggling with online tuition or suffering from a worsening illness, are in a rush to get medical certificates, secure housing or leave School officials receive confirmation that their child’s specific needs are being met.
Your experience is another facet of the Arizona school mask battle.
A broad group of families and public health officials have vocalized in favor of calling for mask mandates, and at least 10 school districts in Arizona have ruled one against the state law in the past few weeks. Oral arguments will also begin this week in a teacher’s lawsuit against the Phoenix Union High School District challenging the district’s masked mandate.
But for now, as schools settle in in the first few weeks of this school year, the decision as to whether or not to wear a mask in most schools rests with the individual students and the adults around them.
And parents like Derton say they continue to fight for their children’s needs, a dynamic they are used to.
“My kids lost so much in distance learning last year,” she said.
Your son with Down syndrome will have to learn everyday tasks such as changing cashiers and driving buses, all skills that are difficult to learn over distance.
“I have a hard time finding that balance between my children’s safety and health and giving them the tools they need for the future,” said Derton.
An effort for security and flexibility in the districts
Students mentored by individual education programs or 504 plans may have a variety of physical or mental realities that need support from their school, from extra help in a specific subject to assistance with everyday functions such as eating.
According to social distancing guidelines and other safety guidelines for classroom schools during COVID-19, meeting these needs can be even more complex. For students who learn best through hands-on teaching and the use of tools, social distancing is a challenge. Students with sensory sensitivities may have difficulty wearing a mask for long periods of time.
The Centers’ Guidelines for Disease Control and Prevention for Students with Disabilities indicate that districts work with families to understand student needs, districts are flexible about when social distancing is possible or required, and teachers and staff consider wearing a mask with a clear panel to assist students who rely on lip reading or need additional study assistance.
The agency also suggests that if schools have direct service providers such as paraprofessionals, therapists or health counselors who are not fully vaccinated and work at multiple schools, schools should ask if any of the other locations have had COVID-19 cases.
In practice, schools state that they often work on a case-by-case basis to ensure that a classroom is up and running and that families and teachers alike feel safe.
Schools mask themselves:These school districts on the Phoenix subway require masks despite the Arizona ban on masks
The Tucson Unified School District, one of at least 10 state-wide counties that mandate masks in violation of state law, said it encourages all staff and students to wear masks, but if a student is unable to wear a mask, “staff follow hygiene procedures” . and practice social distancing whenever possible. “
In the Tolleson Union High School District, where masks remain optional but highly recommended, the district has rooms for the medically-at-risk students or those in need of additional academic assistance, with additional supplies of protective equipment, plexiglass partitions, and a high-quality disinfectant called a. equipped smoke machine.
“Being an educator is a very emotional time because you want to do everything and more to keep all children safe,” said Mindy Westover, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Tolleson. “Every educator wants to give his absolute best.”
From phone calls to letters, Arizona parents are looking for support
In a state with chronically unequal funding for special schools, families implementing COVID-19 school security this year say their efforts to meet student needs reflect their greater struggle for services.
It took Laura Sierra years of encounter and flattery to get her daughter’s individualized education plan off the ground in the Washington Elementary School District, an effort that was interrupted almost every year, first by the 2018 Red for Ed teacher absences and then COVID- 19th
Although Sierra is reluctant to send her daughter to school if some students are exposed, she knows that without personal tuition, her child will only fall further behind.
“She didn’t learn much last year so she’s really behind,” said Sierra.
Her daughter’s school district has passed a mask mandate, but is allowing families to opt out. On the first day, Sierra said, about half of the students she saw wore masks.
Higher education:ASU will require masks in all classrooms that are obviously in violation of state law
Alice Daer’s daughter started third grade this year in Tempe. Online school had been “impossible” for her family because her daughter needed an adult to support her for most of her day. Now her daughter is fully masked in school again, but it was difficult to explain why she has to wear a mask and some students don’t.
“It was pretty frustrating for us,” said Daer. “We’re just trying to encourage them to focus on themselves.”
And parents and doctor, Cadey Harrel, said they de-registered their three children from the district they used to visit in order to relocate them to the Tuscon Unified School District, which has a mask mandate. The main driver was her concerns about COVID-19, but her fifth grade daughter, who had an individual study plan for coping with a learning disability, also fell behind.
“They ask so much of a child to sit in front of a computer when they already have attention problems,” said Harrel.
Still, the decision was not an easy one. Your youngest daughter would have come to kindergarten with the same teacher who taught her oldest child.
“We loved the school, we loved the teachers,” she said. “It was devastating.”
Even when parents find workarounds that make them feel safe enough to send their children to personal school, many say they are never sure what the next day will bring.
After a year of difficult online schooling, including times when her fifth grade son, a gifted student and autistic, said he wanted to die, mom Tory Roberg hoped to return to face-to-face learning.
As the school year approached, she expected her son’s district, the Washington Elementary School District, to open with no mask requirement. Roberg quit her job as director of government affairs for a nonprofit called Secular AZ to meet her son’s school supplies.
Then, a week before school started, the Washington Elementary passed a mask mandate.
“I’m really grateful that the school district passed this mask mandate,” she said. “At least we can try (personal learning).”
Reach out to the reporter at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @yanazure.
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