REOPENING UPDATE: District Prioritizes In-Person Learning For High Needs Students; 21% Of SPED Students Will Attend In-Person 4-5 Days A Week

WILMINGTON, MA — At a meeting last week, Wilmington Director of Student Support Services Alice Brown-LeGrand updated the School Committee on the district’s approach to special education and high need students as the district prepares to reopen this fall.

Any student identified as “High Needs” and whose placement is in a substantially separated program will attend school in-person 5 days a week. To be considered “High Needs,” a student must meet at least 2 of the following 3 criteria: (1) services provided outside of the general education classroom; (2) service providers are special education teachers and related service providers; and (3) special education services constitute more than 75% of the student’s school day.

Any student who cannot engage in remote learning due to their disability-related needs, or who primarily use aided and augmentative communication, will attend school in-person 4 days a week. Students who are homeless, in foster care, or English Language Learners will also attend in-person for 4 days a week. These students — who are considered to have “complex and significant needs” — will have 2 regular in-person days, 2 in-person days where they engage in remote learning, and a full remote day on Wednesday.

“Low-moderate level of need students with full or partial Inclusion IEPs who do not meet any other DESE criteria will be hybrid-receiving services through a combination of in-person and remote services,” said Brown-LeGrand.

All families should have received a letter via email by Friday, August 28, 2020 notifying them of their children’s in-person schedule — 5 in-person days, 4 in-person days, or hybrid (2 in-peron days).

143 Wilmington students — 21% of the district’s Special Education population — will attend school in-person four or five days a week.

“We’re trying to maximize the amount of in-person learning that we’re giving our students,” said LeGrand-Brown. “There are some districts that are only putting the high needs subset in schools, while others are only doing half-days, not full-days… Unfortunately, DESE didn’t give clear guidance as to what it means to prioritize ‘high needs’ students.”

“I know that it’s very hard to feel as though assessing a children’s needs on paper and based on a category actually reflects their ongoing struggles, but we need to follow the DESE criteria,” acknowledged LeGrand-Brown. “I know some parents/guardians will be unhappy. It’s difficult to have students with needs learning at home for a few days a week. It’s important that we have those conversations to look at how we can support these students at home… If there’s struggles, those needs must be captured in the Special Education Learning Plans. Liaisons will be reaching out during the first few weeks of schools.”

LeGrand-Brown noted IEP meetings will continue to be held virtually, whenever possible, to ensure compliance with DPH guidelines & reduce visitors to our schools. IEPs will continue to be written as if we are traditionally in school. 

“We’re committed to trying to get these particular groups of children in the schools as much as possible,” stressed Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand.

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