ICOE Parent Meeting 1

A slide on Zoom shows the objectives of the ICOE Parent Meeting held virtually Wednesday, August 26.

IMPERIAL COUNTY — The Imperial County Office of Education Alternative Education and Special Education departments held an online meeting via Zoom — in both English and Spanish — Wednesday, August 26, in an effort by ICOE to share their newly formed Learning Continuity Plan (LCP) concerning distance learning models.

This LCP is a new plan designed during the COVID-19 pandemic “for schools to have a conversation with stakeholders, parents, educators,” said Senior Director of Alternative Education Monalisa Vitela.

The meeting showed the differences in each programs’ instructional minutes, requirements of students, touched on online learning formats to be utilized, and the efforts ICOE has made in sanitizing areas for the eventual student return to in-person learning.

“In the summertime when your child went home and took a device, it looked very different than what it looks like today. Today they are having to log-in on a daily basis and having to (use) Zoom and so forth,” Vitela said.

Vitela said classes will start with social and emotional learning “to ensure that students are feeling safe and welcome,” identifying mental health and social-emotional well-being as points of emphasis for alternative education in addition to pupil engagement, school nutrition, and others.

Vitela said ICOE must turn in their Continuity Plan to the State by September 30, and parent input is appreciated in the process.

“We'd like to schedule several Zooms with parents to make sure you are able to support your children at home as we move forward with online instruction,” she said. “We have had extensive training with our teachers, professional development opportunities in order to roll out online instruction so we're all learning together at the same time.”

Director of the Special Education Program, Araceli Garcia, highlighted the changes as of July 1, in instructional minutes in special education as guided by the California Department of Education.

She said kindergarten instructional minutes went down to 180 minutes (previously 200), grades 1-through-3 went down to 230 minutes (previously 280), and down to 240 minutes (previously 300 and 360 respectively) for both grades 4-through-8 and high school students

Special education will be more individualized in teaching delivery, she said.

“We considered all options, but our schedules are based off of students' abilities, grade levels, and ability to meaningfully engage during our Zoom sessions,” Garcia said.

Additional instructional time will consist of paper-based, self-paced lessons and activities, which will cover communication, functional academics, English language development, daily living skills, and social-emotional and behavioral skills development, according to the presentation.

Both programs will also be taking attendance, as it is mandatory.

For special education, attendance will be taken by logging into daily courses, completing and submitting distance learning lesson activities and assignments, communicating with teachers daily, and attending all scheduled live learning sessions, Garcia said.

"We're still required to have school every single day and that's what we're going to do,” said alternative education school Principal Joshua Lopez.

Throughout the presentation, parents of special education students expressed their concerns regarding issues such as attendance, mandatory face masks, and online learning due to varied special needs of their students, particularly those with autism.

“As a mother of a child with disabilities, I know this will be impractical,” typed participant Venessa Gonzales. “These children will not be able to follow guidelines.”

As to when in-person teaching might be, ICOE is still uncertain due to various factors with state and local pandemic guidelines, said Deputy Superintendent Amanda Brooke.

“We know that distance learning, many times, can be challenging but we want to do it as well as we can for their students,” Brooke said. “That was a great meeting and we want to keep having them.”

“We understand their concerns about safety, learning loss, and just overall concerns about this (pandemic/online learning) environment that we’re in right now,” she said. “We want to be there as support, we want to keep them safe, we want them to learn, and we want to do the very best we can for their students.”

“We just want them to feel like we are all on the same team,” Brooke said.

Reporter

Roman has worked for multiple local news and non-profit orgs including IV Press and VW Mag, IVROP, St. JP2 Radio and is also with The Southern Cross. An El Centro native, he graduated from Marywood U in Scranton, Pennsylvania. rflores@thedesertreview.com

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