Letter read at BOE Meeting (2/22/21)

To the Administration, BOE members and SOMEA leadership:

I am addressing you today on behalf of the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC) to point out an urgent and critical issue that is affecting many special education families. Many children in our district had been receiving in-person Related Services, from Speech to OT and PT, since last September. Now, with in-person classes shuttered indefinitely, these in-person services have been shuttered as well, even though many of the therapists who render these services are not members of SOMEA but are hired through outside agencies. The children who receive these services are, by definition, the most vulnerable in our district. They are, in many cases, learning basic functions of holding a pencil, speaking, reading, self-regulation strategies, and so forth. We understand one of the issues is that these services cannot take place in district buildings because a nurse must be on site. We are asking to either waive this requirement or hire substitute nurses to be at the buildings so that therapists can offer these services. Or, if not at each building, then at the high school where there were safe spaces to administer therapy sessions and evaluations throughout the Fall. As the district and SOMEA meet with a mediator, we request that this issue be placed at the top of the agenda for immediate resolution. Additionally, we implore the district and SOMEA to find a way to offer special education students in self-contained classes – and Pull-Out Resource Rooms – the option of in-person learning. Many of these students have critical needs that are most appropriately met in-person and the longer they are kept in a virtual setting or bounced back and forth from classroom to virtual, the longer their IEPs remain out of compliance. The special education students who would be served by these two critical requests, do not include the hundreds of special needs children in inclusion classes, many of which are also in dire situations. Allowing these students the option to return to classrooms should be next in priority in any discussion regarding a return to buildings. The children represented by SEPAC are the most vulnerable. They should be front and center in any discussion or mediation regarding a return to classrooms.

Thank you for the attention. Malia Herman VP of Community Outreach Special Education Parent Advisory Committee

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