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October 28, 2020 Meeting Minutes - Moving to In-Person Instruction

Updated: 5 days ago

PALS Meeting Minutes

October 28 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:

_____

FCASD Elementary Schools headed to 5 days in-person instruction.

Although Tim Mahoney, Director of Pupil Services and Special Education for the Fox Chapel Area School District, was unable to join our meeting, he sent the following message to our FCASD families:


"The return to 5-days will allow for our students with exceptionalities to have a greater access to high-quality live instruction.  There may be some adjustments to schedules for our synchronous students, however, we are working to minimize the impact in each building.  Related services will continue to be provided and our School-based Mental Health providers will be able to support either live therapy or teletherapy based on student need or preference.  

Through this process we are also proactively discussing 6-12 transition while also being mindful of the case counts and how to successfully mitigate within those buildings.  If any additional questions arise, please feel free to let me know and I can respond for your minutes."


Questions for Tim Mahoney

We opened up the meeting to questions that might be sent to Tim regarding the upcoming switch and other issues facing families related to school. Here are the questions we sent to Tim (note we will add the responses once they are received):


Question:

An ElEd family who is remaining synchronous is concerned over the earlier start time and downtime beginning on 11/4. Here is the scenario: The student will now have to get up earlier than other FCASD students in the house to attend one class (Math) from 8:00am - 8:40pm, after which time the student has two hours of down time. Literally, nothing scheduled, nothing to do. There are multiple concerns, from personal; having to give medication earlier in the day, while losing two hours of prime time medication/instruction time, to community; what assistance is being offered to synchorounous families to for those two hours to maintain focus and/or regain focus to continue with instruction. How can a family get accommodations made now in preparation for this new schedule? Why is there not more transparence in the process? Synchronous families (typical and exceptional) are feeling as if they must deal with the hand that is dealt them and while concerned that this two hour down time will adversely effect their child.


Response:

While all schedules are unique at the elementary, a typical virtual child would have the following:

  • 40 minutes Mathematics

  • 55-60 minutes Reading

  • 40 minutes Special #1

  • 40 minutes Special #2

  • Stream (at minimum one period a day) for writing, grammar, STEAM, and/or social studies

  • A student would also have an additional stream in period for small group intervention or enrichment

Children are normally with us, engaging in content at school, for approximately, five hours a day. They also have 60 minutes for a recess/lunch block. In the scenario illustrated above, the virtual child could be streaming live for just over 4 hours per day and have access to asynchronous content, application work, and activities within their Google Classrooms, which will help mirror a "typical" school day.


While the start times may not be ideal for some of our students, the continuity of highly qualified instructors in the content and knowledge of our population was seen as more valuable than hiring additional teachers to attempt to "fit" into our building schedules.


Question:

A high school family is struggling because there is no audio version included with their textbook. The student’s IEP clearly indicates all text should be read aloud. This situation leaves the responsibility up to the parent to do all the reading. It also leaves no room for autonomy for the high schooler who is beginning to transition beyond graduation. An ElEd family expressed the same concern when students were sent an activity for students to complete via PDF with an audio link that required payment to use. In other words, the audio link did not function because the district had not purchased the audio portion.


Response:

As for the ability to access written text, all of our virtual textbooks should have reading features or we utilize Bookshare for scanned text that are used in courses. If these are not available or if PDF files are being utilized, we should be using e-readers on our given technology. This is done throughout the district and is a simple addition to either the iPad or Chromebook and our teachers are aware of how to pull files into the program.


Synchronous vs Asynchronous Instruction

In addition, some families moved from synchronous instruction to fully asynchronous instruction in an effort to lessen the stress of the constant changes from the school district. We hope to get a report back on how that move is going at our next meeting.

Next Meeting: November 18, 2020 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. Currently scheduled as Open Forum.

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SPECIAL NOTE

All meetings will be held virtually until further notice.

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