As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Eanes ISD Superintendent Tom Leonard has stated that the district has not determined a date to reopen.
“The problem superintendents have been struggling with is we have been getting different dates from the city, different dates from the county," Leonard said during a virtual board meeting March 31. “Our communication has gone to a place where we are saying I’m not exactly sure when we’re opening.”
With no clear end to the district’s closure, EISD staff continues to serve its students through a remote learning platform, including students who fall under the special education department.
Molly May, the department’s executive director, spoke during the March 31 virtual board meeting, confirming that the special education department has developed its own remote teaching and learning plan, calling it a companion piece to the district’s overall virtual plan.
The instructional time and overall level of engagement was based on the district’s general education framework for virtual learning.
May stated that EISD has implemented telehealth practices and is continuing to offer physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, counseling and adapted physical education, all using a remote platform.
“It’s been a learning curve in lots of different ways,” May said. “As we implemented telehealth, we found that there were HIPAA requirements.”
Permission from a student’s parents or guardian is required prior to implementing telehealth services, May said.
May explained one of the largest issues is working to stay informed on federal and state guidelines related to students with disabilities.
The district is facing challenges focused on the Child Find system, which is how schools identify students with disabilities. Child Find was included within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and according to May, a number of the evaluations are required to be conducted in-person.
May confirmed that EISD is not alone in this struggle, and departments nationwide are working through similar difficulties. At this time, the Office of Special Education Programs has not taken action to relax any of these guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Where that impacts us is we will undoubtedly miss timelines, and that has funding implications in terms of evaluating students and finding them eligible for special education,” May said.
However, officials are working on this subject at the state and federal levels, and May said EISD is monitoring the situation closely.
“We have delved into lots of different areas we haven’t been in before.” May said. “[Remote learning] is up and running, and our students are getting therapy; they’re getting instruction; they’re able to see their teachers the same way as all of our other students.”
May is also working with the districts’ nurses to develop a system for returning students’ medication in the event that the closure is prolonged. She said this would likely be conducted in a drop-off style much like the system used by the Food and Nutrition Services or Technology staff to distribute lunch and iPads.