By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
Photo caption: Edmonds School District student uses district issued laptop at home. Photo courtesy of the Edmonds School District.
As schools across the state plan an academic school year for remote instruction, educators are developing strategies to provide equitable opportunities for academic success for their most vulnerable students.
To accommodate special education students, English-language learner students, and those experiencing homelessness during the remote start to the school year, the Edmonds School District (ESD) is drafting out plans to ensure an equitable education to their peers.
ESD currently serves over 600 students who are experiencing homelessness, over 3,000 English Learners, and over 3,200 students receiving special education services.
“We have many students in the district who are vulnerable for a variety of reasons,” explained Dana Gleason, Assistant Superintendent in the ESD. “Students who are least close to educational justice and access are the most vulnerable. Specifically, students who receive special education, experience homelessness, and marginalized populations.”
Pandemic-induced circumstances leading to increased housing instability, childcare needs, and the demands of parents’ workdays present further challenges to working through potential accommodation strategies to serve students, says Gleason.
In the Spring, when learning first become remote the district ensured that every student had access to a Chromebook. For the upcoming year, all students have been re-issued a computer to complete their schoolwork. The district will also provide Wi-Fi hotspots and tech access along with access to other supports such as meals for students experiencing homelessness.
“Outreach to our students experiencing homelessness has been increased and our attention to new needs is paramount,” said Gleason.
A task force is working to plan a possible in-person “hub” that would serve students experiencing homelessness through space, technology, staff, and attention to basic needs, says Gleason. They’re following the guidance of the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the Department of Health throughout the planning and the possible development.
“Our district has to examine the safety of students and staff, how to maintain social distancing and cleaning protocols within the setting,” explained Gleason.
For English learner students, Gleason says the district is allocating more staff resources to new students and those with significant language needs while creating innovative ways to assess language remotely.
Serving students who receive special education or other support services, the district’s Special Education Department is working to develop an overlay of special education supports. This entails developing example schedules that model how services can be provided within the existing schedule, providing supplemental core curriculum to staff as needed, and working with staff in supporting the creation of individual schedules.
For IEPs and 504 plans, which allow students to complete similar tasks as their peers but with some variation to provide equal access to learning and an equal opportunity for academic success, a team will still work to develop unique plans for students’ circumstances. This could range from additional technology supports to additional time says, Gleason.
“Some accommodations that might take place in the school building setting may not be needed and some additional accommodations could potentially be newly needed in full remote platform of learning,” said Gleason. “It is imperative that IEP and 504 teams review plans and supports and determine what is needed.”
Throughout planning for the upcoming school year, ESD has held multiple community forums, recently holding one specific to special education services. Gleason says the focus of public comments and concerns surrounded individual student needs and planning and access to education. To allow another avenue for families to continue to seek information and resources, ESD created an email address specific to special education.