While schools remain closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, The Children’s Guild Alliance schools in Maryland and Washington, D.C., continue to implement distance learning designed for students with disabilities, providing special education and related services and achieving 85% student engagement.
“Every day missed is a day you don’t get back, especially for our students with disabilities who need consistent, predictable structures and interventions,” said Kathy Lane, chief of educational services for The Children’s Guild Alliance. “We took action immediately following the school-closure announcements, reaching out to every student across our schools and providing them with Chromebooks, Wi-Fi hotspots and the tools needed to continue their education while also ensuring they had access to meals.”
The Children’s Guild Alliance operates special education day schools in Baltimore and Prince George’s County, Monarch Academy public charter and contract schools with Anne Arundel County Public Schools and The Children’s Guild District of Columbia Public Charter School.
Teachers reach students using online platforms including Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, and Google Meet as well as i-Ready online assessments and individualized instructional programming. Small groups of students connect with teachers and each other daily during morning meetings, lunch groups and multiple 20- to 30-minute instructional periods. They study English and the humanities in the morning and science, technology, engineering and math in the afternoon with a social-emotional wellness period in the middle of the day.
“We set a high expectation for ourselves and students right out of the gate.”
“We set a high expectation for ourselves and students right out of the gate,” Lane said. “Students benefit from a regular routine and continued learning, but we also haven’t lost sight of our greater mission of serving the whole child. We serve children with special needs and they require our best, now more than ever.”
The Children’s Guild Alliance provides teletherapy for families, including one-on-one coaching for parents. The schools have safely continued mental health counseling, behavior intervention for students, mental health, speech and occupational therapy and other services virtually without a reduction in services.
“We are committed to serving our families, pandemic or not, and have developed strong relationships with the parents and caretakers of our students,” Lane said. “Many sit down with their children during instructional time, which is one reason we have seen such high participation rates. Most of our students look forward to interacting with their educators and therapists online as they seek to connect with those who care for them and to provide some sense of normalcy in an unusual and dynamic environment.”
The Children’s Guild Alliance schools created continuity of learning plans for distance learning for students with disabilities with individual education plans (IEPs), which outline educational goals for each student. These individualized continuity of learning plans guide the establishment of learning schedules, virtual lessons and classroom websites, interactive videos, regular communication and staff feedback on student assignments and assessments.
“I’m so proud of what our teachers and students have accomplished under such challenging circumstances,” Lane said. “They’re responding well to distance learning, staying engaged and participating regularly. We’ve created a multitiered system of virtual support and personalized learning that puts kids first.”