Planning To Reopen - Our Schools, DESE FAQ Special Education Qs 40-44
The way in which our children learn and our educators teach to begin this school year will be will challenging for both to say the least. Regardless of the reopening model chosen by your school district, all schools will be providing remote learning to some extent. Parents whose children require special education in the COVID-19 environment may be struggling with how these necessary changes may impact the ability of school districts to meet their children's needs. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has put together a FAQ to help parents navigate these uncharted waters.
Please note supplemental information can be found on the Department's website at DESE COVID-19 Information and Resources.
NOTE: COVID-19 is highly transmissible. Individuals should follow these universal precautions regardless of the extent of mitigation needed:
- Follow healthy hygiene practices
- Stay at home when sick
- Practice social distancing
- Use a cloth face covering (with some exceptions) in community settings when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
The current state of the COVID-19 pandemic is continually evolving. What is true today may not be tomorrow. At this time, the evidence suggests schools have not played a significant role in COVID-19 transmission and that children, particularly younger children, are less likely than adults to be infected with COVID-19.
As always, work with your local health officials to determine a set of strategies appropriate for your community’s situation.
(See our Planning to Reopen series of blogs for more information regarding CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA, Mass DESE, and OSHA safety requirements). To review the administration's reopening guidance from the state click here. To view Governor Baker's full report click here).
The Massachusetts DESE recommends that districts and schools select high quality, and subject areas.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Special Education Related Services, and Models of Learning
Strategies for Engaging Families
40) In what ways is family engagement important to focus on at this time?
Family engagement is crucial for the healthy growth of children and youth. Quality family engagement has a lasting effect on a child’s social-emotional health as well as school readiness and academic success.
Research shows that families want their children to do well and that they believe school is important. Partnering with families improves students’ grades and motivation, helps student academic achievement. Partnering with families also helps teachers learn more about students' needs, which is information they can apply toward better meeting those needs. Engaging families can be done through phone calls, emails, texts and web-based activities.
41) What should we focus on to strengthen family engagement as schools reopen?
One of the first steps is to build partnerships with families. It will be important to continue to build and strengthen your relationships with families during the school reopening process. Building relationships encourages fundamental practices that include but are not limited to:
- Recognizing and respecting the uniqueness of each family,
- Keeping families and youth voices and perspectives at the center, and
- Planning and implementing activities with families and youth and not for families and youth.
42) How do we build a partnership with families?
- Talk with families using clear language.
- Communicate in the primary language of the home, using interpreters and translating documents, when appropriate.
- Make sure to limit educational jargon and consider the translation needs of the family.
- Be honest in your conversation. If you do not know an answer to a question, you can let the family know that you will get back to them.
- Be sure to follow up with the family.
- Discuss concerns and offer suggestions, supports and resources.
- Plan next steps together.
43) What are strategies we can use to build relationships with families during the school reopening process?
Schools and community organizations play a crucial role in establishing and strengthening shared connections with families. the Department has developed STRENGTHENING PARTNERSHIPS: A Framework for Prenatal through Young Adulthood Family Engagement in Massachusetts. Five Guiding Principles form the basis of this Framework and provide a foundation for creating, within systems and organizations, a culture that values and thrives on family engagement.
- Each family is unique, and all families represent diverse structures.
- Acknowledging and accepting the need to engage all families is essential for successful engagement of diverse families and includes recognizing the strengths that come from their diverse backgrounds.
- Building a respectful, trusting, and reciprocal relationship is a shared responsibility of families, practitioners, organizations, and systems.
- Families are their child’s first and best advocate.
- Family engagement must be equitable.
The Flamboyan Foundation has developed strategies to build relationships and partnerships with families:
- Be Authentic
- Center on the student
- Learn and focus on what is important to the family
- Offer frequent and consistent communication
- Reach out to all families
44) Are there resources available to help build relationships with families during the school reopening process?
There are many resources that provide ideas and strategies for building relationships with families. You can also work with your Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) to be part of the process of strengthening Family Engagement.When building relationships with families, please consider that some parents/guardians are limited English proficient and may need translations or interpretations to be able to effectively engage in this collaborative work.
You may find the following resources helpful now and in the future:
- The Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) provides resources and trainings for families and educators and has focused their work to address the school reopening process
- Massachusetts Prenatal through Young Adult Family Engagement Framework
- Massachusetts Family, School, and Community Partnership Fundamentals (the Fundamentals)
- Family and Community Engagement Requirements of ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act)
NOTE: According to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education areas of the school visited by the COVID-19 positive individual must be closed off and/or cleaned and disinfected. The area can be used 12 hours after cleaning/disinfecting has occurred.
While the administration continues to work with communities to implement best practices and protocols for reopening our schools we will continue to share with you guidance from the CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA, Mass EEC, Mass DESE, and OSHA and the Governor's office to follow as we prepare for the new school year.
Also, we at SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley know that not every community has access to the resources necessary to meet the strict cleaning guidelines to ensure a safe environment for our children. For those communities, we are here to help!
Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned
The Disaster Remediation Teams at SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley are specialists in cleaning services and we adhere to the highest cleaning and sanitation standards. We are prepared to clean and disinfect your schools, according to protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We have years of experience in dealing with biological contaminants, and we will go beyond the scope of work of "normal daily cleaning". Call SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley today for a free consultation - (617) 332-9000.
All of us here at SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley want you and your loved ones to stay safe and know that we will make it through this together! Rest assured, we will continue to do our best to keep you up-to-date and informed!