At Paramount Schools of Excellence, our mindset during the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic has been long term implementation – we are acting as if this isn’t going to go away, so we keep our head in the game to make sure we are setting up for long term success. We switched immediately into an eLearning platform and didn’t take any time off. For us, the decision was very easy – to provide support for students with disabilities and their families. The hardship was figuring out what that meant.
These were some of the immediate actions we took:
– Conducting Day One Check-Ins with every single family, which included a home asset inventory that enabled us to quickly figure out and measure where our families’ access capabilities were in terms of technology, wifi, even adult support in the home. This gave us a really good picture early on for what the support needs were. Our special education staff continues to contact students with disabilities daily to stay on top of access barriers and maintain engagement.
– Allocating appropriate service time to the best of our ability and collaborating with related service providers to offer teletherapy. We are shifting our parent training, to ensure special education teachers are collaborating with families to help educate students with disabilities.
– Determining how to measure fidelity with our new style of programming. To ensure we were able to measure implementation fidelity to this new style of learning, we developed a monitoring tool for special education administrators to provide observation and feedback to special education teachers.
“Maintaining contact and engagement was something we assumed would fall off. While you can’t get 1:1 minutes exactly like you’d want to, you can get really close.”
We were tracking all supports and services before, but now our trackers have become really robust – to the extent that there is a daily connection from individual teachers all the way up to the heads of schools. In the shuffle of trying to serve students, we want to make sure that special education teachers don’t get disconnected. Lesson planning required (and still requires) consultation between special education and general education.
We don’t have all of the answers, but we are doing the best we can to meet the needs of our students – and prioritizing that at a high level.
What we learned/Big takeaway
Focus on connectivities across the school community. Leverage existing collaboration between staff and enhance communication with students and families – and use those connections to constantly elevate what we’re doing as a school.
What we are still figuring out
Families have different capacities – the 8-hour instructional day for kids is different for families. Instruction is impacted by how much families can do in a day and lessons have to connect to families also.
What I would tell other leaders during this time
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.