BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - The Beaufort County School District announced at their Board of Education meeting Tuesday night they will provide face-to-face instruction to certain special education students at their school facilities while the rest of the school district opens in a full-virtual teaching capacity.
“Since the district announced that we will start the year in a virtual model, we have been working with our Special Education department to determine how we can best meet the basic academic and functional needs of our special education students with ‘low-incidence disabilities,’” said Duke Bradley, deputy superintendent and chief of schools.
According to the school district, they have approximately 220 students designated as having Low Incidence Disabilities, which are those with severe intellectual/cognitive disabilities, those in autism-focused classrooms, those who require instruction related to visual impairment, and others who require instruction related to deaf/hard-of-hearing needs.
Families of 138 of the 220 students with LIDs requested face-to-face instruction when they registered for the school year.
“We’ve concluded that the most appropriate setting for these students, despite our district’s virtual start, will be to educate them at their schools under a hybrid model that permits face-to-face instruction and therapy services while keeping student groups small to ensure health and safety are maintained,” said Bradley.
According to District Special Education Director Juliet White, federal law requires special services for students with disabilities.
“Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act, we have a legal obligation to ensure that these students have access to a free and appropriate public education,” White said. “Virtual instruction is particularly challenging for these students.”
“We have always maintained that virtual learning is not as ideal as face-to-face instruction,” Bradley said. “This is particularly evident when it comes to meeting the needs of students with extreme intellectual and physical disabilities. When we say we want success for all students, this is exactly what we mean. As a consequence, we are taking steps to ensure that all students have the tools and instruction they need to make measured progress.”
The district reviewed current IEP services and data collected during spring building closures to determine the students most in need.
Superintendent Frank Rodriguez says he has been encouraged in the county’s downward trend of COVID-19 cases.
“If this positive trend continues, we will be able to open schools to all of our students who desire a face-to-face education sooner, rather than later,” Rodriguez said. “This is what we all want because it’s best for our children. In the meantime, I’m glad we will be able to effectively serve certain special education students, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Half-day face-to-face instruction for these students will commence Sept. 14 in a hybrid model. Families will be provided additional information from their schools by the end of the week.