Special needs students falling behind, teachers having difficulty connecting remotely

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DENVER (KDVR) — As many Colorado schools keep students at home for virtual learning, teachers continue to tackle a job that’s increasingly becoming more difficult.

For one special needs teacher who didn’t want to be identified, the frustration comes from an ongoing inability to keep their students on track during the day.

“So many of our kids are disengaging, they are not doing well in the remote setting and they are failing classes,” said the metro area teacher. “They just can’t hang on.”

The teacher tells FOX31 their students are starting to fail several classes at a time. They don’t hold them accountable for their inability to concentrate as most are diagnosed with conditions that require hands-on assistance to get through the school day and stay focused. 

Throughout Colorado, between 10% to 15% of students require extra help in school. These students could have more severe disabilities, such as autism or behavior disorders but it could also be students with ADHD, those who suffered an injury, or simply need additional help with certain subjects.

Teachers fear these are the students that are being left behind. “One of the most devastating things a kid can experience is when they have to tell mom or dad they’re not going to graduate,” said the teacher.

For many parents, it’s becoming a reality. “I’ve sent several emails, voicing concerns on how this isn’t working,” said Elizabeth Gross with a special needs freshman. “He’s failing almost all his classes. All but one. He’s never failed a class before so have a feeling he will have to repeat a grade.”

Gross and her husband have to leave their son at home to learn on Zoom alone as they work their essential jobs. Most days their son doesn’t even login to start class.

“He can’t learn remotely,” said Gross. “He would have to be in school with some sort of supervision.”

Jackie Eubank has a son in kindergarten with special needs and put her career on hold to stay home with him during the day to make sure he’s staying on track.

“A lot of it is instruction that I have to be there helping with,” said Eubank. “It’s a full-time thing, I can’t imagine trying to do this while I was working.”

While most Colorado schools, such as Denver Public Schools, do allow some special needs students to learn in-person, those exceptions are rare and few. Many teachers feel their districts have taken the appropriate steps to ensure students and teachers stay safe while in the classroom.

“I have no fear, none, about the safety protocols in place,” said the teacher. “They are just not allowing us in.”

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