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Columbia Public Schools

Families of special education students eager for more details on Columbia Public Schools fall classes

West Middle School front entrance


The CPS Board of Education is offering classes 5 days a week in-person or adjusted online learning for students in special education.

Over the weekend, families in Columbia with kids in special education started an email campaign trying to get information about their children's education plans.

The Columbia Board of Education met Monday afternoon to make a decision on how classes will start when school resumes Sept. 8. The district has been tracking the 14-day rate of cases per 10,000 people in its boundaries to determine whether classes will take place only online, all in-person or a mix of the two.

CPS reported the rate hit 66.2 on Sunday. District officials have eyed 50 cases as the threshold that could make classes go all-online. Having classes online-only has caused concerns for some parents of special needs students.

A reopening plan for special education on the CPS website states all students eligible for special education services can either come in-person for special education services, receive services remotely or a combination of both.

The plan said a student’s schedule will be created by their special education teacher to make sure the student gets the specific service they need.

Local parent, Sara Rivera, who has a son who needs special education services, said the last six months have been filled with unanswered questions and waiting for plans.

"I have been trying to get him used to the idea that school could happen at home, and quite honestly I have not been very successful," she said.

Rivera said her son can only learn virtually for a few minutes at a time.

"I've been working trying to lengthen that time, but it's not working," she said. "He's going to struggle, he's going to fall further behind."

CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark told ABC 17 News in an interview earlier this month that even if general student classrooms are on a hybrid schedule, students with disabilities could potentially come five days a week.

CPS teachers' union president Kathy Steinhoff said she does not know how much of the special education services will be affected if CPS moves online.

"Our special education department is really working to look at each individual IEP of how they can adjust it in this virtual world," she said. "How they can get minutes and service in ways that will help the student but be in a way to keep everyone safe."

Columbia / Coronavirus / Education / News / Top Stories

Zola Crowder


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