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PALS March 2020 - 1st Virtual Meeting, Our New Normal


PALS Meeting Minutes

March 25, 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. Today's meeting is a great example of how we can help each other through sharing our questions and experiences with one another.


Our New Normal

In the wake of COVID-19 and students transitioning to virtual learning we held our first ever virtual meeting and discussed what our new normal looks like. The majority of participants expressed that they felt their children where receiving the learning materials they need and that teachers were readily available. There was the question of what was happening with therapies, speech, physical, occupational, etc.. Parents had all received a flood of materials for therapies, but had not yet been notified of actual services being provided as required in their child's IEP. One parent with a child at an approved private school was curious on how services work in this situation. Who is responsible, the private school, or the school district who approved the placement?


With the additional responsibility of being a para-professional and educator while either continuing to work a full-time job remotely, an essential job outside of the home, or facing unemployment, parents ask how sustainable is the situation. Exhaustion and stress are amping up in both parents and students. The situation makes for long days as some parents must be available to work on everything with their child and others must continue to keep the child engaged and on task. This leaves the parent unable to focus on their own tasks to maintain their household.


Some relief came when Tim Mahoney, Director of Special Education for FCASD, joined our virtual meeting. He explained that FCASD has been working to keep up with things with minimal guidance from the state. They have been working with teachers and families to get students who are struggling with the adjustment to virtual learning the materials they need.


Tim also explained that he had just participated in a meeting with the Pennsylvania Department of Education Bureau of Special Education. In the meeting they discussed teletherapy services. The state has now approved teletherapy making all therapies available in a virtual setting. Therapists are now working to organize therapy sessions through Google Hangouts because it meets HIPPA requirements. In FCASD, River Pediatric Therapies is now approved and can begin scheduling student therapy sessions.


Tim also answered the question posed earlier in the meeting about students in approved private schools. He expressed that the district is supporting these students. They are working on figuring out how to make-up the lapsed week in learning and services. Although they are not sure exactly what that will look like yet, the district is looking into altering Extend School Year services. However, all districts are waiting on guidance from the state.


We have invited Tim to join us in future meetings to provide updates and support as we all work through our new normal. We discussed who else we may invite to these virtual meetings in our effort to support each other through this life changing event. We have already reached out to Dr. Deborah Gilman, a Licensed Psychologist who will join our next meeting on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. on Zoom. She will join us for the first 30 minutes and provide the group with coping skills and self care tips.


During this time, we will continue to host virtual meetings using Zoom EVERY Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.. We will post the log-in information for these meetings on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Reference Material

Need information regarding the rights to special education in Pennsylvania? The Education Law Center’s “A Guide for Parents and Advocates” is a great start.

Next Meeting: April 1, 2020 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. Dr. Deborah Gilman, Licensed Psychologist, will join us from 9:30 - 10:00 a.m. to offer coping skills and self care tips. We will post the link to this meeting on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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