Deena Hill, the executive director of student support services, said district officials felt it was important for some students to return to the classroom so they could progress in their education.
“Some of our students ... they really need someone to provide direct instruction and to be prompted, and it’s difficult sometimes to do that through the computer,” Hill said. “So, we believe that there’s certain kids that just need more than the online program can offer.”
FBISD has a total of 8,520 students who receive some form of special education services, according to data presented at an Aug. 10 meeting. Of these students, the district identified 1,506 students who are recommended for face-to-face services. As of Sept. 2, 899 students—570 elementary, 233 middle and 96 high school—had agreed to return for face-to-face learning.
Hill said teachers and special education staff looked at factors to determine which students would be best served in the classroom, including how they handled online learning in the spring, communication and functional skills, and reading and math level.
“Based on some of those considerations, that’s how we made the recommendation to the parents,” Hill said.
Hill said because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, some families opted for their students who receive special education services to not return to the classroom. These students, along with those not recommended for face-to-face learning at this time, will engage in online learning with accommodations, Hill said.
The district’s online curriculum has been designed to meet the needs of all students, she said.
Angela Graham said her son Bruno, who receives accommodations through the district for his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, was not recommended for in-person learning at this time.
“He wasn’t quote unquote 'special enough' to qualify for [in-person learning], but he’s also not suited for the format that they have now,” Graham said.
Graham said beginning the school year online was difficult for her family as Bruno needs frequent reminders to stay on task, and she and her husband work outside the home.
Prior to returning to the classroom, the district was facing staffing shortages among special education teachers and support staff because of anxiety about returning during the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Hill said after declaring these employees' jobs “vital,” most of these positions have been filled.
“We communicated with teachers that we needed them back,” Hill said. “We needed them here to do what our main goal is—to serve students.”