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Board of Education gets update on distance learning plan for Exceptional Learners

By Eugenia Jones

In a special called meeting, McCreary County School Superintendent Corey Keith and Director of Special Education Amelia Stephens shared progress made on the distance learning plan for exceptional learners in the McCreary County School District. With in-person classes postponed for district students until at least after Fall Break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many have wondered what the specialized instruction necessary for students having special needs and individualized educational plans (IEPs) will look like.
Director Stephens told Board Members many variables must be considered for the implementation of distance learning for students with special needs. Variables include type of disability, IEP, grade level, goals, and the impact of past months of COVID-19 on students’ emotional health. Teacher variables must also be taken into consideration. Stephens said distance learning must be accomplished in a way that closes the gap for parents who may feel they are choosing between their child’s health and their child’s education.

Stephens stated parents of children with special needs can expect phone calls from teachers who need to learn the needs of the home in order to provide specialized instruction. Teachers need to know if homes have internet access, if parents are working outside of the home, and if parents need teacher assistance outside of traditional school hours. Stephens stressed successful specialized instruction is dependent on good communication between teachers and parents.
Stephens noted children with IEPS must have specialized instruction, and teachers must document how that instruction is done differently than with other students. Stressing one size of instruction does not fit all students, Stephens said the District is looking at many ways to individualize instruction including the use of Google Classroom, providing parents with resources for different types of disabilities, use of virtual meetings, and possibly even scheduling in person sessions with teachers providing instruction to one or two students at a time.
Board Member Lori Foster asked if all students in the District could, in some way, be seen visually at least once weekly. Foster noted a weekly visual contact might lessen the possibility of a child becoming a victim of abuse or neglect. Superintendent Keith said he is not opposed to the idea of a quick, weekly visual contact and would explore options. Keith did say parents will be required to have their child with them when picking up meals from the optional school meal delivery service on Mondays through Thursdays. This will give school staff the opportunity to do visual checks for some, but not all, students.

Board Members also heard an update from Superintendent Keith regarding mentoring options. Keith said McCreary Central High School Principal Sharon Privett feels some of her students can serve as peer tutors. Keith said he feels the mentoring program is doable as long as mentor students are at least age eighteen and well trained.
In other business, the Board approved all actions by consent including the creation of a guidance counselor position at McCreary County Middle School, approval of a digital coach position at Pine Knot Elementary School, and approval of the 2020-2021 Code of Conduct.

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