Families with special education students left in limbo with no clear plan from districts

Posted at 7:30 PM, Jul 30, 2020

Many school districts have released plans on what classrooms and even sports may look like this school year, but one special group of students are feeling left behind.

Parents like Garrett and Anna Ross say they haven't heard any plans for families with special education students.

With the start of school just a few weeks away, they feel time is running out.

The Rosses have a 7-year-old special education child who has down syndrome and say the coronavirus pandemic left a big void in his very special way of learning.

"If you're in-person that's great, cause he's able to handle it, he's able to get the one-on-one attention. If you're trying to get something from the Internet, it's harder for him to absorb that and pick up what he needs from it," said Garrett Ross.

Last school year in Texas there were 5,493,940 students enrolled in school. Roughly 587,987 of those are considered special education.

When asked if the special needs program had reached out them yet, the Ross's answer was no.

"We just haven't seen anything. It's all been about regular typical kids," said Anna Ross.

An issue Killeen ISD's superintendent admitted they need to do a better job of during a back-to-school press conference when reflecting on the what happened in the spring.

"We may not have done as good as a job to make sure that their educational needs and provisions are being provided," said Killeen ISD Superintendent Dr. John Craft.

Special education students have different requirements.

Dr. Craft says special education teachers are planning to work individually with each student virtually. As for testing and assessments, special education students will be allowed to return to campus in-person while following current safety guidelines.

"So it's going to be a much more individual approach to ensure that our special populations and their educational needs are being provided for," said Dr. Craft.

The TEA’s Department of Special Populations conducts weekly webinars with special education directors statewide to share guidance, information, updates and answer any questions that may arise.

The TEA has also started a Special Education Task Force, which has helped in policy and guidance design, review, and dissemination during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group is made up of over 40 individuals including educators and district administrators from across Texas.

To access all of the TEA's special education COVID-related guidance, click here.