This article was published on KENS5 by Holly Stouffer on November 23, 2020.
SEGUIN, Texas — Virtual learning presents its own set of challenges for teachers and students, especially for those in special education.
Even in a pandemic, educators know how to solve problems with ease. Seguin ISD has found the solution.
The district is using a school bus to bring these services to students learning from home. A special education teacher works with them in the back of the bus that’s been converted into a mini classroom. Each session is one-on-one. The student and teacher both wear masks throughout the lesson.
“We’re trying to provide the safest environment to get the services to the students,” said Halcy Martin-Dean, Director of Special Education. “When the bus pulls up, their faces just light up!”
Martin-Dean said the idea came from Superintendent Dr. Matthew Gutiérrez, who doesn’t want any student to fall through the cracks.
“We immediately got together, as a special education team, and talked about how we could do this,” Martin-Dean said. “We started calling parents to offer the service and had immediate takers!”
Special Education Coordinator Rebecca Bloxham visits her student, Emiliana. The kindergartener has cerebral palsy and learns a little differently. Bloxham uses plenty of materials, like flashcards, to teach her a new lesson.
“They need more hands-on instruction,” Bloxham said. “This bus is a really simple, easy way to provide that level of instruction that’s really going to enhance their learning.”
Emiliana’s mom, Stephanie Castillo, said the “Magic School Bus” has made both their lives easier.
“Even though it’s just a 30-minute break from me, it helps her,” Castillo said. “She’s more enthusiastic when she gets off the bus. It’s a better start to her morning and she’s ready to do what we need to do for school throughout the day.”
With health problems of her own, Stephanie didn’t feel comfortable sending her daughter to school.
“Emiliana is medically fragile,” Stephanie said. “We’re both high risks.”
It was a tough call for her to make, but the staff at Seguin ISD handled it with care.
“As the parent of a child with disabilities, I’m always worried about her being left out or left behind,” Castillo said “And in this case, I don’t have to worry about that. They came to me with the resources.”
Castillo is touched by the kindness of Emiliana’s teachers who go the extra mile.
“It’s an overwhelming feeling, knowing she is included and thought of,” Castillo said. “I have yet to meet a teacher who won’t go out of their way to make sure Emiliana is getting all the therapy and resources she needs.”
Even though this mobile classroom is temporary, Emiliana is making lasting progress.
“She’s got a great attitude and she’s excited to learn,” Bloxham said.
“She really has come a long way in our program and we want to maintain that success for her,” Martin-Dean said.
Martin-Dean said there are 800 students in special education at Seguin ISD and about 70 percent of them are back at school.
This mobile classroom is offered to students still working from home. The district also has “walk-in” centers where parents can bring their child in for help with certain activities.
The mobile classroom has been operating for four weeks. Currently, seven families are taking advantage of it. Martin-Dean hopes to add more to that list soon.