SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Misty Brubaker has a eight-year-old son named Spencer. Spencer has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He’s in a CSS classroom, which is a district program. It serves students who have an individualized education plan with specialized needs in communication, sensory and socialization.
When Springfield Public Schools’ re-entry plans were released, Brubaker had to choose between having her child learn fully online, or two days seated and three days online. She emailed the school board and administrators expressing her concerns.
“I thought children like mine and many others who need the in person, hands-on, and even one-on-one in order for them to learn were not thought about in the given options,” Brubaker said to Ozarks First’s David Chasanov online. “For us, the benefit of my child being in his classroom with his teachers and peers far outweighed the risk of him catching COVID-19.”
Brubaker did not make a decision by SPS’ July 31 deadline.
“I was not satisfied with those options,” Brubaker said. “My son thrives and loves going to school. His teacher offers him things I can not, nor can a computer screen. Especially when his focus is so limited.”
She was worried about the upcoming school year until she was contacted by Springfield Public Schools last week. She was asked if she would be interested in placing her child in a four-day seated option.
“I was thankful to hear that they made special considerations,” Brubaker said. “So that many children who are often left behind, will not be left behind this time. Not in any way is it due to a childcare situation or not wanting the time with my child. As for both situations, I always have care for my child, and a job that has been accommodating when I needed to bring him in with me.”
SPS chief communications officer Stephen Hall confirms that the district has made this offer to families. Hall shared a statement with Ozarks First:
“There are a select group of students with a high level of special needs that a four-day option would apply to. This includes early childhood special education and our Wonder Years preschool program. In all cases, classroom sizes are already smaller and allow for reduced population. The Wonder Years preschool program is separate from the special education/special needs programming. That is any pre-K/four year old enrolled in preschool.
We updated the Board on Tuesday and eligible families have received individual notification. Adjustments to reentry were anticipated after parents selected their student’s learning option and we were able to determine enrollment for each option and then staff the district accordingly. We will continue to make adjustments to the reentry plan, as needed, as the pandemic continues.”
District superintendent Dr. John Jungmann also weighed in saying, “There are some special needs students that, according to their IEP, have a significant number of minutes and supports,” Jungmann said. “They might be in a self-contained environment where they are going to be offered some four-day-a-week option. That’s a very small, limited population. But, we are working with those parents to help support them.”