The Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE), in collaboration with the Galt Joint Union High School District (GJUHSD), has re-opened its Special Education program at Galt High School for students with moderate to severe disabilities, returning some students to in-person learning.
After starting the 2020–21 school year with a distance learning model due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), three SCOE classrooms are now operating for students with the most severe needs, with no more than six students per program. Each morning before entering the classroom, students undergo three health checks: families do a health check, as does the bus driver, and then a teacher or paraprofessional educator at the campus. “By the time the student gets into the classroom, we know they’re feeling fine that day,” explained Special Education Teacher Jessi Romankiw.
“At the beginning of this process, to figure out how to have our students return for in-person instruction, we started with meetings with the district representatives, collaborating with them to find out what their safety and cleaning protocols are,” said Special Education Principal Guy Holman. “We can mimic and kind of do the same things for our SCOE programs.”
The teachers are also broadcasting video online of their in-person instruction, simultaneously serving students at home and on campus. They have developed lesson plans that allow all their students to interact with one another and the staff.
“It’s what I love, and I can’t tell you how much this is making my heart happy to see students every morning, excited to give an elbow bump to everyone when they come to school,” said Special Education Teacher Kristina Aldrich.
Classrooms now have less furniture, and what remains is spaced farther apart. Plexiglass dividers are being used, and students are situated at least six feet apart. Students and staff wear masks, and staff have been trained on how to thoroughly clean high-touch areas. Student contact tracing protocols have been set up and are ready to be implemented. SCOE nurses have all received contact tracing training from Johns Hopkins to be able to provide support.
“Students feel comfortable, staff feel comfortable, and kids get to return to school,” said SCOE Special Education Executive Director Michael Kast. “Having kids return to school provides a sense of relief and normalcy. It doesn’t give anybody a sense that we are through the pandemic, but it does let them know that some things can go back to somewhat of a normal circumstance.”