Special education will be one of the biggest challenges for schools going online

Updated: May 19, 2020

This article originally appeared in the San Diego Tribune on April 6, 2020 by Kristen Taketa.

Schools are asked to provide special education services to the “maximum extent possible”

As Mo Martin watched her 7-year-old daughter Fiona take part in Zoom teleconferences last week, she grew concerned about how her daughter is going to learn online. During one session, as a first-grade teacher read a book to students online, Martin figured Fiona paid attention to maybe half of it.

Fiona attends Alcott Elementary in San Diego and has Down syndrome. Even before schools closed last month to slow the spread of COVID-19, Fiona, like many students with disabilities, needed hands-on materials and in-person interaction to get her engaged in learning. Martin says she can’t imagine Fiona getting all her education through a computer screen for the rest of the school year. “We just feel she’s falling through the cracks, and nothing’s really ... pointed or suited towards her or her learning,” Martin said. Fiona is one of more than 725,000 California students with identified disabilities, including 56,000 in San Diego County. Schools now have to find ways for virtually all of those students — each with a particular set of disabilities and needs — to learn online.