ORLANDO, Fla. - A number of Orange County parents are speaking out about the challenges ESE (exceptional student education) students are facing because of COVID-19.
While they don’t want to risk their children’s health in brick and mortar schools, some ESE parents say virtual learning is not working for them either, and their children’s needs are not being met. Parent Luz Oquendo says she has made her school aware.
“Every single time we would have these meetings, I would sit with her on launch Ed and nothing was being implemented,” she said.
Last week, FOX 35 News reported about a state complaint from one parent, alleging Orange County Public Schools was not providing her daughter with exceptionalities Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE.) The Florida Department of Education sided with the family and ordered corrective action.
Now some parents are thinking about launching their own complaints. Some have even opted to pull their children out of public school altogether. Aracelis Bonet is now her son’s full-time teacher.
“For him to be in front of a screen for hours, it was just very uncomfortable for all of us, it was bringing on so much stress that we just decided to pull him out completely and for me to become his full-time teacher, therapist, etc etc,” she said.
Emily Carreon also pulled her child out of public school and enrolled him into a private school that specialized in Applied Behavior Analysis, where she says her son is making progress. She believes if something isn’t done, more ESE families will also make the decision to take their children out of public school.
“It’s unfortunate that they’re going to lose a lot of students and I don’t know if students are going to come back,” she said. “And that’s going to affect the bottom line which is going to hurt a lot of communities.”
Orange County School District officials said they cannot comment on these student’s individual cases. However, said parents can switch back to brick and mortar schools and receive assistance from the school that way. They also said they have made opportunities available for parents to share their concerns.
“We deeply care about our students and their needs,” said Scott Howat, Chief Communications office for OCPS. “The first nine weeks, the first semester, we’ve been holding round table sessions for parents in each of our learning communities. All were invited, we made sure we got the information out to our parents to make sure they could come out and voice any of their concerns.”
Medical conditions for some ESE students means in-person learning may not be an option. Carreon believes teachers need training.
“All our tax dollars are paying for our children to be educated like anybody else’s. They have the right to that and the right to be in their schools, and right now there’s absolutely no training for teachers to teach students with special needs virtually.”