WEATHER WATCH
'What we want is dialogue': Alexandria couple frustrated with virtual learning plan
{p}Hakan and Ania Ozsancak say daughters Leyla, 11 and Sylvie, 5 once loved attending school, but that's no longer the case.{/p}

Hakan and Ania Ozsancak say daughters Leyla, 11 and Sylvie, 5 once loved attending school, but that's no longer the case.

"The day starts with arguments because the kindergartener doesn't want to go to school because she doesn't want to be stuck in the same place," Ania said.

The couple's older daughter, who has special needs, is also having trouble focusing.

"There's no reason for her not to be after 10 months back in school, at least with her personal aide," said Hakan.

His children attend Matthew Maury Elementary which has been shuttered due to the pandemic.

Alexandria City Public Schools had hoped to bring students with disabilities in grades K-2 back to school on January 19, but due to transmission rates, COVID cases, and staffing, the system delayed the transition.

Hakan worries Leyla and other students with challenges are being left behind.

"Under the Department of Education guidelines, she has the right to an individual aide who now sits on a computer screen and can't help her," he said.

Which leaves the Ozsancaks doing what many parents are: guiding their children through their studies.

The couple is so frustrated, Hakan wrote a Letter to the Editor published in the Alexandria Times.

In it, he calls virtual learning a "failure" and tells ABC7 more compassion is needed from the school board and system.

"What we want is dialogue. What we want is communication. What we want is clear data," he said.

Seven on Your Side reached out to ACPS which provided this statement:

As we are all aware, the impact of this global pandemic significantly affects the educational programming of all our students. Students with disabilities are historically challenged in typical learning environments and continue to be in the virtual learning environment. To that end ACPS prioritized students with disabilities in all return to school planning. At every step of the planning process, they are the first groups of students scheduled to return to a hybrid setting. Throughout virtual programming, students with disabilities are prioritized and the following are examples of strategies and interventions undertaken by specialized instruction staff:

Provided virtual training on several topics including (but not limited too): providing special education supports and services in the virtual environment; implementing accommodations in the virtual environment; conducting running records virtually; implementing interventions in the virtual setting; data collection and progress monitoring during virtual instruction, etc.

Delivered manipulatives and teacher manuals to special education intervention teachers to ensure seamless transition to implementing interventions from brick and mortar to the virtual environment. Developed virtual courses on canvas supporting teacher transition to implementing all Tier III reading and math interventions in the virtual environment. Have provided additional materials and individual support to teachers to improve implementation. Fidelity checks have been conducted; the information gathered used to address needs of teachers and students.

Collaborated with AVID, IT and ELL staff supporting teachers using Kami. Additional follow-up planned for this month to collaborate on development of a module using Kami to increase student engagement and take data on student progress.

Activated 600 Read Write licenses; and ongoing support provided to teachers, parents and students to maximize use of the software to increase SWD access to virtual instruction.

Development of asynchronous lessons aligned with standards of learning and IEP goals. These lessons have been shared with special education teachers for use in meeting SDI requirements during asynchronous learning assignments. Lessons are available on Canvas for grades K-12. Additional lessons are added weekly.

Updated the co-teaching walkthrough form to reflect expectations for co-teaching and providing Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) in the general education setting during virtual instruction. A related training module for teachers and administrators was developed and posted on Canvas which reviewed expectations and gave examples of appropriate co-teaching for VirtualPLUS+ instruction. Co-teaching walkthroughs have been scheduled and/or conducted in all ACPS schools; follow-up support and training provided as needed.

Ongoing development of VirtualPLUS+ Creative Curriculum lessons and activities to address IEP goals of preschool students with disabilities. Purchased and distributed toys to support lessons and increase student engagement in virtual instruction.

Purchased 60 document cameras for use by special education teachers. Developed video demonstrating how to use the camera to improve virtual instruction and increase engagement of SWDs.

Co-planning with individual teachers, co-teachers or Professional Learning Community (PLC) groups.

Provide direct consultation to families for home related concerns (e.g., behavioral concerns, educational impact, general family functioning).

Provide direct services to specific students for either counseling, academic instruction, shaping procedures or identifying/using of assistive technology.

Ongoing support for IEP data collection, analysis and support for compliance.

Exploring/finalizing ordering of additional educational resources and materials to support improved outcomes of SWDs during VirtualPLUS+ including: See Saw accounts for preschool and elementary special education teachers, lap desks for students, token boards for students, headphones with microphones for students, student licenses for News2You and Unique Learning, high/low books for students.

In addition, school and central office staff respond to individual needs by adjusting those student schedules in order to balance screen time with asynchronous learning activities. Specialized learning packets are provided to families. The Office of Specialized Instruction supported the addition of contract teaching staff at TC Williams HS to support the specific learning needs of students who grades were lower than expected. Social workers and school counselors are supporting families with attendance challenges.

ACPS and the Office of Specialized Instruction recognizes this is not the ideal learning environment for students with disabilities. Despite all efforts and supports, students will have learning loss. Once we return to face to face instruction, we will implement procedures to intervene and provide intense remediation to mitigate the impact on student learning.

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