At Frisco ISD’s July 23 Board of Trustees special meeting, parents expressed concerns about how the school year’s three-week online start would impact students with special needs and who needed assistance with dyslexia.
Frisco resident Colette McCadden said one of the reasons she chose to address the school board was because her child has significant special needs. Her son has severe autism, she said, and lost 11 weeks of instruction time in the spring semester. She said he now stands to lose three more.
“My child does not learn virtually at all,” she said. “His [Individualized Education Program] states that he is to receive one-on-one instruction for teaching of new skills. He requires hands-on learning.”
At the meeting, Chief Academic Officer Wes Cunningham described what the first three weeks of school, which will take place virtually, might look like. The presentation addressed special education students who are entitled to an Individualized Education Program, or IEP.
“All students who are IEP entitled will receive ARD [Admission, Review and Dismissal]/IEP recommended instructional and related services virtually while the district is operating remotely,” Cunningham’s presentation stated. “ARD/EIP committees will consider each child’s individual needs. There will be synchronous instruction as needed.”
Cunningham added that this would differ from the spring 2020 eLearning format by having more synchronous components.
In response to a question from the board about how observations would work for special education students, Special Education Executive Director Tracy Cartas said the district would be able to continue working with students virtually and that some evaluations would be conducted face to face.
“We had a backlog, and we found ways that we think that we can do the evaluations that will be safe,” she said, “and so we’re going to continue that.”
The district has released a guidance document on its website regarding special education during the fall semester for both in-person and Virtual Academy learning.
“Students who are entitled to instructional and related services through an ARD (Admission, Review and Dismissal)/IEP, §504 Plan, etc. and who choose to enroll in Frisco ISD’s Virtual Academy will be required to convene an appropriate meeting to revise their supports and services to ensure the district meets their individual needs,” the document states.
According to the document, teachers will develop individualized lessons for students who choose the virtual academy option and will provide direct instruction through scheduled synchronous sessions. If a student cannot participate in synchronous sessions, the ARD committee is expected to meet and document how an IEP will be implemented. Teacher responsibilities include uploading weekly lesson materials on online platforms and monitoring student progress.
The district document also states teachers should look at what additional support students might need. That includes having teachers consider alternative strategies or support, such as more synchronous instruction and convening committee meetings to address a lack of progress.
“When face-to-face instruction resumes fully, annual ARD committees should address student-specific needs resulting from closure,” the district document states.
That could include COVID-19-related “compensatory services” or extended school year services, according to the document.
The document notes that details are subject to change.
Cunningham’s presentation at the Monday board meeting also addressed the district’s dyslexia program, “Take Flight.” The program typically begins the third week of school.
“Because of the model that we used in our emergency planning in the spring, our students in the dyslexia program at the elementary level will be repeating the spring semester to ensure that they have full access to the Take Flight curriculum,” Cunningham said. “We’re working hard to make certain that we try to close any gaps that we might have with our students.”
Students in secondary schools who were in the dyslexia program in the spring will also repeat the spring semester of the program, according to Cunningham’s presentation.
Cunningham said the dyslexia program will be provided in a virtual synchronous model, a change from what was provided in the spring.
“Again, learning lessons as we go,” he said.