Special needs educators expressed concern on Wednesday for the reopening of schools in September, saying it may be difficult getting students to understand physical distancing protocols.
A special needs educator, who requested anonymity, said, “Generally, students will not obey the rules. They will put their hands in their mouth, they will not wear masks, even though you put them apart, they will still gravitate to their friends.”
She said even though the school – a private institution – has not started yet, she can already feel the stress of the months ahead. “It’s not only the teachers will be stressed. Students will be too because they will not understand.”
She said teachers at her school started an initiative in June, sending videos to their students, who they have been communicating with through virtual classes to familiarise them with the physical distancing guidelines before they come out in September.
She also said teaching time will cut drastically because of the emphasis on getting the children to understand the new rules.
She also said parents have expressed their unhappiness with the shift system. “Even though parents are kicking up a storm, we have to consider the school is not big enough to social distance with all the students there every day.”
She said they must implement the shift system to maintain physical distancing. Students in the lower classes will be in school three days for the week. “Parents are really upset about that.” She said the administration will have to revisit that arrangement later, but it will come at a cost because of the size of the school. “A full class every day is not feasible.”
CEO of Goodwill Industries Barbara Alleyne also said the shift system is necessary to maintain physical distancing. She said for the most part, they are not going to have a problem adhering to the Ministry of Education’s guidelines.
“Government guides us when working with students with disabilities, you should have five in a class to one facilitator. Once it crosses five, you need two facilitators,” Alleyne explained. She said once that happens, they must divide students and resources into separate classes.
“Our problem will come when parents will want all the children to come out, but we will not be able to accommodate all of the children at the same time in all of the classrooms…It will affect the parents who have to go to work…but we will do the shift system without a problem.”
Phyllis Griffith, president of the Private Special Schools Association (PSSATT), also expressed concern for some of her students. She said change is particularly difficult for children with autism. “Sometimes even changing from polo to T-shirts can be an issue,” she said, adding because they are used to structure, any obstruction to their daily routine will be difficult for them.
Autism is a developmental disorder that is characterised by difficulty in social interaction, communication and repetitive patterns of thought and behaviour.
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