In-person learning for students with special needs in New Haven on hold due to COVID uptick

New Haven

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Schools in New Haven are going fully remote, and that will soon include classes for students with cognitive learning disabilities, as well. Now, the parents of those students said they are concerned and frustrated.

The district made the decision as a safety precaution as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the region. The risk of exposure for school officials outweighed the benefit, so it was decided that after Friday, Nov. 20, all students — including those with special needs — will be learning from home again.

Back in September, it was decided by the New Haven Public Schools to bring students with learning disabilities back in school from virtual learning as many teachers and parents presented concerns that many weren’t able to engage through virtual learning and really needed that individualized attention.

About 120 students district-wide were brought back at that time for in-person, individualized attention they needed.

Now, with that option gone, many are bracing for a difficult season ahead.

As coronavirus cases surge, the goal now is to just keep students and staff safe.

But parents are now left in the dark about next steps for their students in need of specialized, in-person connection and attention.

“I’m trying to understand how you have these people that are paid thousands and thousands of dollars, right? That have these titles, how do you have them at these tables, at the head and they don’t have a plan and can’t produce a plan?” Nijija-Ife Waters, a New Haven parent told News 8.

Waters’ son is special needs and she has been advocating for his learning situation since the start of the pandemic. She said she and countless other parents are back to square one.

“How do you continue to go forward and push forward, but you don’t have these kids at the top of your list. They should be at the very top and not the bottom. They can’t keep pushing these kids to the side it’s totally unfair. It’s very devastating to a lot of parents who depend on that.”

RELATED: New Haven mayor urges governor to tighten up COVID-19 restrictions as cases rise

News 8 reached out to Superintendent Dr. Ilene Tracey of New Haven Public Schools for comment on the end of the in-person learning for special needs students.

She wrote, “The program is only delayed until further notice, due to the uptick of the virus. We will continue to monitor the spread of the virus, which – to a great extent – will determine how we resume the program, along with moving to the hybrid learning plan overall.”

And welcoming students back for in-person learning depends on the case numbers across the region and with cases on the rise, there isn’t any set date on when these students may be welcomed back.

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