Special education during remote learning

Monika Jurevicius, Sports Editor

At Palatine High School, parents of special education students are wondering how their student will handle remote learning. Teachers and staff of the PHS special education department speak up about how they’re making it as easy going as they can for their students.

From the start of the school year Dan Gavin, the special education department chair at PHS, has seen students both thrive and struggle with remote learning. The biggest struggle is seeing how relationships between students and teachers are strained. 

“The crux of their success is the relationships that they have with their staff and with the teachers,” Gavin said. The teachers in the department are trying their best to accommodate those students who are struggling without the relationships and other physical necessities that greatly influenced their learning.

“I think that our [special education] kids who need multiple forms of learning, they need visual, aural, they need proximity like they need teachers to help them stay on task,” Kara Waddell, a special education teacher, said. “Those kinds of things are very difficult in remote learning.”

Students who need accommodations are struggling around the globe. Staff is trying to make it as accessible as can be for students to receive these at home through a screen.

“We’re getting as creative as possible with those [accomodations] and trying to deliver in a virtual fashion, right now,” Gavin said. “Our hope is to be able to start bringing those kids back into the building, to have access to some of the physical pieces of those services.” 

Waddell tries to implement as much as she can from her in-person classroom into her virtual classroom through Zoom.

“I’ve always tried to treat my students to show them that they have potential and they can get as far as they believe they can,” Waddell said. “I really try to run my classrooms with a high level of expectations, but still put in nurturing and fun.”

Special Education students follow the same schedule as mainstream students do during remote learning. The schedule consists of one hour classes, with 15 minute breaks during the day. Schedules do adjust in special education if a student needs a break.

“We’re always being responsive to the kid’s needs in the classroom, so if that hour long [class] is too long for kids, which it is for some, we try to build in some extra breaks to give those kids a chance to rest,” Gavin said.

Gavin tries to keep the department calm and awaits further information from the Board of Education on how his students can proceed with the school year.

“Palatine high school or special education, we’re not operating in a vacuum,” Gavin said. “The entire country is working through the same issues that we’re working through now. We’ll keep doing the best we can with that, but everybody’s kind of on a level playing field when it comes to the COVID-19 piece.”