Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Managing An Unusual End To The School Year

Usually at this point in the school year, I’m writing about wrapping up. I write about summer maintenance for HAT systems, end-of-the-year IEP and transition meetings, setting up in-services for next year’s teachers and preparing students for the transition to the next grade. This spring, all those topics come with a bit of a question mark. What will the end of the year look like? What will fall look like? Will audiology clinics be open for HAT system maintenance? How do we end this school year?

            Because of the many unknowns, I’ve started working with my school teams to prepare for any number of possible scenarios. Below are some of the topics I’ve covered and begun to explore with the support of my schools, families and students themselves.
·      In the event that my mainstream students return to school in the fall, what precautions can we expect? If face masks will be required, students with hearing loss may benefit from adults on their educational teams wearing masks with clear windows that allow for speech reading. While a quick Google search turns up many manufacturers, many are out of stock or back ordered. Planning and ordering masks now can help alleviate potential stress in the fall.
·      If masks are required, how will this impact a student’s access to sound using a HAT system? I have encouraged families to reach out to their audiologists and the manufacturers of the HAT systems for guidance, as this may be different for each individual student.
·      How will new rules or protocols for social distancing or safety be provided for students? It will be important for our students with hearing loss to receive explicit, clear, written guidance to ensure that they understand any changes that may be implemented.
·      How will teacher-of-the-deaf support continue in either live school or remote learning settings? For several of my students, amendments were added to the IEP for remote learning, clearly outlining what support from me would look like during this period. At other schools, separate forms were completed for each student on an IEP. I’ve recommended that this paperwork stay in the IEP in case of a return to remote learning so that supports can continue seamlessly regardless of the format that school takes.
·      For my in-services, I’ve discussed options for both virtual and in-person in-services in the fall. This way, the expectation is clear to schools that the in-service will be necessary either way. The content will vary since remote learning and live classes require different accommodations and modifications, but it will be important for next year’s teachers to have that information prior to the start of the school year.
·      When I meet with students virtually, I do my best to assure them that although there are still a lot of unknowns, this will end. We will not be in quarantine forever. I’ve spent time learning what has worked for them in remote learning and what challenges they have experienced. This will help me to fine tune my own teaching and recommendations for the future.

Most of these questions do not have clear answers. Every student is different, and every school is operating under different protocols. By starting the conversations now, we can do our best to prepare for the many possible scenarios for the fall. 

How are you working with school teams to prepare for the return to school?

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