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November 18, 2020 Meeting Minutes - Timelines, Virtual Learning, COVID Closures, ADHD Apps, and More

PALS Meeting Minutes

November 18, 2020 9:30 a.m.

Virtual Meeting using Zoom


Open Forum

Open Forum is an opportunity for participants to come together and discuss a variety of topics, offer resources, and ask questions related to special education. We discussed:

_____

Special Education Timelines

It is easy to forget or confuse Special Education Timelines. We took a quick look at what to expect when requesting an Evaluation or Re-evaluation in writing. We headed straight to the PaTTAN website for answers, bringing up the Special Education Timelines handbook. Bookmark the link to easily access in the future.

If you are new to Special Education and the IEP process, one of the first things you learn is that there are timelines for just about everything. In fact, it is the law;

"According to Pennsylvania law, Chapter 14 Special Education Services and Programs and Federal Regulations Part 300, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education services must be delivered according to mandatory timelines. Chapter 14 regulations are adopted by the State Board of Education. These provisions are in addition to the federal regulations adopted for the delivery of special education to students in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."


Synchronous vs Asynchronous Instruction

We received an update from a family that went from synchronous learning during the first quarter to asynchronous learning. Although there are still some lessons that may have students engaging in a twenty minute video presentation, asynchronous allows for the student to pause and come back to the learning experience. The family reports that for them, asynchronous learning has decreased their child's anxiety.


5 Day In-Person Learning and Future COVID-19 Related School Closures

We inquired with a family on how the five day in-person learning model is going after a couple weeks in. The report was positive with the exception that students are already being told to take everything home each day to prepare for school to close once again. The majority of school districts seem to be doing an excellent job of reducing the the spread of COVID within the school. Local and state health departments report the concern is the spread through small gatherings within the community.


**Later in the afternoon the following e-mail arrived from FCASD:

November 18, 2020

Dear Fox Chapel Area Family,

As I am sure you are aware, cases of COVID-19 are surging locally, statewide, and nationally. On Friday, November 13, the Pennsylvania Department of Health deemed that Allegheny County is now experiencing a “substantial” level of community spread of COVID-19. In addition, on Sunday, November 15, the Allegheny County Health Department called the surge in cases “beyond concerning” and said “we must still be proactive in reducing the spread of the virus.”

In an effort to safeguard our entire school community, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to switch to fully virtual instruction for all students in the Fox Chapel Area School District beginning Monday, November 23, through Friday, December 4.

On Thursday, November 19, and/or Friday, November 20, students who attend in-person instruction should gather all belongings that they may need at home for this shift to fully virtual instruction. There will be limited access to the buildings after this time.

While the district is fully virtual, all students will have opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

Elementary students who had been attending in-person instruction should log in to their Google Classrooms at their typical start time and follow their “Indigo In-person” schedule.

Elementary students who attended virtual blended instruction should log in to their Google Classrooms at their typical start time and follow their “Orange Online” schedule.

Elementary students who participate in full-time asynchronous instruction should continue with their classes as scheduled.

Secondary students should log in to their Schoology accounts as they typically would on a virtual day, follow their schedules, participate in planned instruction, and complete assigned work in each of their courses.

Parents/guardians should continue to complete the Ruvna health screening tool daily for their child(ren).

Thanksgiving break will remain Thursday, November 26, through Monday, November 30. No instruction will be held during Thanksgiving break.

At this time, our plan for a return to in-person instruction is as follows:

Students in kindergarten through grade 5 are expected to return for five-day-a-week in-person instruction on Monday, December 7.

Students in pre-kindergarten and grades 6-12 are expected to return for hybrid instruction beginning on Monday, December 7.

Athletics will be modified on a case-by-case basis. Additional details will follow in communications from the athletic department.

We want our children to remain in school, and the layered mitigation strategies in our schools have been rather successful. However, the “substantial” level of community spread of COVID-19 in Allegheny County means that the county has experienced more than 100 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period, or a percent positivity rate above 10% over seven days. The most recent data indicate that Allegheny County has a COVID-19 incidence rate of 138.7 per 100,000 residents. Additional information regarding COVID-19 cases in the Fox Chapel Area School District can be accessed here.

We will continue to be in regular contact with the Allegheny County Health Department, as well as monitor guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to inform our decisions on instructional model changes going forward. If the Fox Chapel Area School District needs to remain fully virtual for a longer period of time, families will be notified no later than December 3, 2020.

We ask our families to continue to take steps to stay healthy, such as wearing a mask at all times (indoors and outdoors) when not with someone from their household, practicing physical distancing, frequently washing/sanitizing hands, and significantly limiting contact with those who are not part of your household. By doing so, you are doing your part to help our students to return for in-person instruction as soon as possible.

As always, please visit the district’s COVID-19 webpage at www.fcasd.edu/coronavirus for the most up-to-date information, including a glossary of topics to help families navigate the switch to fully online learning.

Please take care of yourself and your family at this time. We thank you for your patience, cooperation, and flexibility during these unprecedented and uncertain times.

Sincerely,

Mary Catherine Reljac, Ed.D.

Superintendent


Time-Managment and On-Task Apps

Parents are finding they have become their children's school day secretary, making sure they log-in to classes and turn in work on time. We discussed helping children working at home become more independent through the use of time-management and on-task Apps. Although many organizational Apps have been used, success seems to be found in more analog methods of printing out or writing down a schedule of events and checking items off a list. Keeping a calendar nearby, going through the agenda for each class before the start of the school day helps shed light on what everyone should expect from the day. The ultimate goal is to have students do all of this on their own, eventually learning the routine and managing their own time.


Text Readers

At our last meeting we had a question about text readers for a student with an SDI which indicates "text to be read aloud to the student". The family is still seeking support from the school district as some of the text is in PDF form. As most text readers come with a cost, we inquired with the district on the availability of grants for families. We will provide any response we receive here in the future. For more information on the original question and response head to our October 2020 Meeting Minutes.


SDIs

We hosted education civil rights attorney Nancy Potter in October 2019. Nancy shared an in-depth overview of the rights of special education students along with personal experiences. During the course of that meeting Nancy was asked by several parents how families can safeguard against their child being sweep into the juvenile justice system because of encounters with law enforcement officers in school buildings. Nancy gave recommendations on how concerned families can work with their school based IEP team members to include an SDI in their child's IEP to address the concern. Recently a family successfully worked with their school based IEP team members to get such an SDI included. The key was using the district's own words within the student handbook regarding possibility of police interactions to support the idea. For more information on this topic, please visit our October 2019 Meeting Minutes and scroll down to "Security in Schools".

Next Meeting: December 16, 2020 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. Currently scheduled as Open Forum.

**Log-in and Password for this and all upcoming meetings will be sent in all upcoming newsletters. Become a subscriber in the footer of this web page.

SPECIAL NOTE

All meetings will be held virtually until further notice.

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