CUSD Holds Virtual Town Hall for Special Education

(Courtesy of CUSD via Zoom)

The Clovis Unified School District held a virtual town hall meeting in order to address concerns and questions parents of special education students had. The meeting took place via Zoom on Thursday, July 30, at 5 p.m. and was streamed live via the CUSD YouTube page.

The meeting began with Robyn Castillo, the Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services, welcoming everyone to the town hall.

The panel for the town hall consisted of Theresa Pafford Administrator of Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) and Psychological Services, Carrie Carter Director of Special Education, Anne Castillo and Ruth Steffy Assistant Directors of Special Education, Norm Anderson Deputy Superintendent and Eimear O’Farrell CSUD Superintendent.

CUSD Superintendent O’Farrell addressed the panel and audience saying that tonight was an opportunity to listen to the parents’ questions and concerns.

“Our greatest goal and our greatest desire is that this upcoming school year is as successful as possible for our students with special needs,” O’Farrell said.

Robyn Castillo presented two choices for students returning to school for the fall.

For children in elementary school there were two online choices, Schedule Virtual which consisted of students having a Zoom meeting with their teachers at a regularly scheduled time.

Their second option was the Flexible Online Program, which required a one quarter commitment from the student and it would use the Engenuity Program for those in sixth grade or the Accelerated Education Program for kindergarten to fifth grade.

Secondary level students had similar options with the Clovis Unified Connect and much like the elementary option, students would get a set schedule time with Zoom meetings. Their second option would be much like the elementary option, but instead of a quarter commitment it would be a semester commitment.

Robyn Castillo also noted that for students with disabilities who choose an option different from their Individualized Educational Program (IEP) there might have to be a meeting to determine the proper option for the student.

Pafford was the first to answer questions and acknowledge that these have been difficult times for everyone.

“We know that there have been adults and kids alike that have been negatively impacted by COVID and we want you to know that we are here for you,” Pafford said. “We so appreciate you (parents) working with us because we know it has been hard.”

The first set of questions were about assessment and Pafford answered that at this time they will be able to have in-person assessment for the students. She also mentioned that in cases where there can’t be an in-person assessment there will be a virtual assessment. Pafford said that when in-person assessments are administered they will have to wear proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

Carter was asked about how a regular day will look for students during virtual learning.

Carter mentioned that students will use Zoom, Google Classroom and Clever on a regular day of instruction. She said that the experience in the spring was able to help them figure out a better way to instruct students virtually.

Carter said that much like a regular day of classes students will have instructions from the teachers, but also will be able to break up into groups. There will also be breaks implemented in the schedule much like a regular school day.

Steffy answered questions on special needs students wearing face masks once schools open again. Steffy said that all students must wear a mask from the third grade and above, but there might be exemptions. Students exempt from wearing a mask must have a medical condition that a doctor can write an excuse for.

Anne Castillo talked about how the county is not allowing in-person instruction and how students who receive instruction at home cannot receive the instruction at this time. She mentioned that those students will be served through the distance learning model and that teachers will work to meet the child’s IEP goal.

“The distance learning plan and how we are going to execute those services are going to be specific to your child’s needs,” Anne Castillo said.

The last of the questions was directed to Deputy Superintendent Anderson. He said that getting virtual learning right was not just a learning process for the student, but also the teachers.

Anderson was asked how long will it take for students to go back into the classroom once distance learning is lifted. Anderson said that once the County is off the watch list there will be at least a two week period before there could be face-to-face learning.

“These are challenging times and your voice is an important component in this partnership between the school and the parents so that we have the best absolute program for our students,” Robyn Castillo said. “We can’t wait for school to start and to have our kids join in.”

Jorge Rodriguez has a passion for journalism and wants to bring the community information and great stories. After high school Jorge joined the U.S. Army and while in active duty he was deployed twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While in college he worked for the Fresno City College Rampage and the Fresno State Collegian newspapers. He graduated from Fresno State in 2019 with a degree in print journalism.