Orange County parents express concerns over lack of summer school details

With summer school just two weeks away, parents who enroll their students in the Orange County School District’s extended school year say re-opening procedures have not been clear enough.

The extended school year, which is supposed to start on July 13th, is usually an option for families who have students with special needs. Emily Carreon said she will not send her son, who is on the autism spectrum, to school early this year. She did not feel comfortable signing him up for the program back in June when she was supposed to make the decision.

“Basically, any type of information a parent might need to make an informed decision on whether or not they felt their child is safe was not provided at the time they had to make the decision,” she said.

Carreon is especially concerned because many families, particularly with students with special needs, rely on ESY to get their children back into the swing of going to school. Right now, ESE students are receiving virtual learning, which continues to be an option. “Parents really need these services at this time. Most of these children have been out of school since March. Their routine is out of whack, they have behaviors growing, they’re not getting any of their services such as speech, occupational therapy, and PT,” the mom said.

She is not the only one with these concerns. After receiving a number of complaints, Florida State Representative Rene Plasencia wrote a letter to the Orange County School District asking for more detailed plans. He also thinks there was not enough input from parents and teachers during the decision making process.

“There should be a higher level of urgency to what’s happening,” said Placensia. “I think these types of decisions should be made with public input and it should be transparent. They shouldn’t be closed-door meetings. There should be workshops with teachers and parents.”

The Orange County School District responded by sending Rep. Placensia this document that outlines Summer School guidelines. The representative said it was only after he sent his letter that the school district posted a page on their website containing the document. The page was added to the school district’s front page on Wednesday.

Some of the procedures outlined in the document include what will happen inside classrooms:

  • Students will be required to wear a face mask or PPE in class unless it is medically necessary not to wear one.
  • Employees working with students shall wear face masks or other appropriate PPE.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be available in each classroom.
  • The student to teacher ratio will be no more than 10 to 1 unless specified differently.
  • Students will be seated in a socially distant layout with all chairs, desks, and other workstations at least 6 feet apart.
  • Students will receive breakfast upon arrival and eat at a social distance in their classrooms. Each student will be given a bag lunch when he/she leaves for home.
  • Teachers will hand out the meals if there are fewer than 15 students in a school; otherwise, a Food and Nutrition Services staff member will hand out the meals.
  • Students will only be allowed to go to the restroom one at a time. 

The full list can be found here.

Carreon says many of the guidelines listed only prompt more questions. It can be difficult for a child who has special needs to abide by some of the guidelines. She says parents are not getting answers they need to very specific questions, which leads to a bigger conversation about inclusivity when it comes to the ESE community.

“Where are they getting them from? What kind of masks? There are all of these questions, and we have no idea what to expect, and it’s a hard place to be,” she said. “Sadly, the exceptional student population is almost always left out. Almost always forgotten, almost always left in the back of the class.”

The Orange County School District did not immediately respond to inquiries on the topic.