MCPS officials discuss special education reopening
November 12, 2020
On Sept. 24, Governor Larry Hogan and MCPS Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala announced that all 24 Maryland jurisdictions had approved of the plan to bring small groups of students with specific needs back to school.
The starting date of this program is undetermined, though it will not be happening anytime soon. “This is in no way a signal that we’re going to do this immediately, or next week, or in the next three weeks or four weeks or five weeks. We don’t know when that is,” MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) plans to open three special education centers, one in the upcounty region, one mid county and one downcounty. This is to ensure that all students have a location nearby. Kevin Lowndes, Associate Superintendent for Special Education, stated that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, in-person formal achievement and psychological assessments are still necessary regardless of circumstances. Due to this, MCPS will be calling families to ask how they feel on this matter and whether they would be comfortable with bringing their child in to be assessed.
“In-person preparations are a good thing, as long as it was confirmed that it would not create a spike in COVID 19 cases,” freshman Lakshmi Sangireddi, whose brother attends a special education program at Seneca Valley High School, said.
“My brother is really lonely at home,” Sangireddi said. “He really misses his friends. In fact, the other day, when he logged into online school, I could hear him excitedly yelling hello to his friends all the way in the basement.” While Sangireddi wanted her brother to meet his friends, she reiterated that the correct precautions must be taken and the reopening must be doctor approved.
In an interview with medical researcher Dr. Faruk Sheikh from the FDA, he stated that he also believed that the reopening of special education programs would allow for more effective learning, though it must be done under strict safety and sanitary guidelines. “I think that reopening schools for kids who need special education is important as remote learning is not very effective, but it cannot be done unless strict safety measures like regular cleaning, using hand sanitizers, socially distancing, and masks are used,” Dr.Sheikh said. “If all of those measures are met there shouldn’t be a problem. But I do think it will affect the community significantly if these measures are not followed strictly – cases will go up a lot quicker without safety protocols.” He also expressed his concerns on the expected rise of cases during the winter.
Although there are many differing perspectives on this topic, the one thing people seem to be able to agree on is enforcing proper precautions to be set in place. MCPS has taken this into account and has ensured all special education teachers will take a training course to make sure everyone is safe when the schools will open.