Majority of particular training college students again in school | Training
Most of the special needs students in Halifax County’s public schools are back in the classroom this school year.
The return to the “pre-pandemic” personal teaching format is one that Martha Brizendine, Director of Special Education at HCPS, prefers for special needs students.
“In-person tuition is always considered to be the most effective form of teaching for students with disabilities,” says Brizendine.
She added that the effectiveness of virtual tuition versus in-person tuition depends on a student’s disability and each special education student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) dictates how lessons are delivered to that student.
While the vast majority of students in HCPS received virtual tuition for only most of the 2020-2021 school year, all schools in Virginia are required to offer face-to-face tuition five days a week for that school year.
In addition, there are no specific guidelines for how classes are given to special education students this school year, but the vast majority of HCPS special needs students receive full-time in-person tuition, Brizendine said.
Of 857 special needs students across the district, Brizendine said, fewer than 50 are receiving practical classes this school year.
Out of a total of 4,681 students enrolled at HCPS that school year, only 190 elementary school students were enrolled in the Virtual Virginia program, and as of September 1, 190 high school students were enrolled in virtual learning through the school system.
Virginia school districts continued to receive no specific guidance on how to teach special needs students in the 2020-2021 school year, as those decisions were left to school authorities in each school district, Brizendine said.
Earlier this year, Brizendine advocated stand-alone programs for special education students who they believe have “most significant needs” and for those assigned one-to-one tuition so that they can return to the classroom for extended periods of time -Person instruction.
The Halifax County School Board voted in late September 2020 to allow 139 special education students to return to the classroom for face-to-face lessons. At this point in time, HCPS students had not been in the classroom since mid-March 2020 due to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a decline in classroom teaching for general and special education students, resulting in learning losses for students. Brizendine discussed how HCPS is working to address this learning loss in special education students.
“Loss of learning is obviously a concern that we have and is something that we have addressed and continue to address in the summer programs,” noted Brizendine. “From our funds for emergency aid in elementary and secondary schools (ESSER), we have added special education teachers, a behavior specialist for elementary schools and a teaching coach, and requested a curriculum-based computer-aided program to help with learning loss.”
The way teaching is delivered to special education teachers in HCPS is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but is tailored for each student based on that student’s IEP. Brizendine went on to explain that the majority of special needs students receive instruction in a general education classroom, while some receive instruction in standalone special education classes, where class sizes are limited by state guidelines, community-based programs, some are home-schooled, and students with “significant medical needs” receive instruction through domestic services.
The director of special education said the school system was working hard to tackle the learning losses of all special education students regardless of how they were taught.
“We do our best to address parents’ concerns and do what is best for our students,” said Brizendine.
The distribution of special needs students at each school is 284 at Halifax County High School, 176 at Halifax County Middle School, 38 at Clays Mill Elementary, 83 at Cluster Springs Elementary, 24 at Meadville Elementary, 52 at Scottsburg Elementary, 26 at Sinai Elementary, 113 at South Boston Elementary, 31 at Sydnor Jennings Elementary, and 30 at South Boston Early Learning Center.