Special needs parents concerned with Wake County schools return to school process

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Throughout remote learning, 3 Bluebirds Farm helped guide autistic students through a new way of learning.

That part of their services was temporary is now powering down as Wake County moves into a rotating schedule for younger and special needs students. Juggling students as they rotate in and out of school makes it impossible for them to continue.

“Different weeks, different sessions, different teachers, different schools,” said Erin O’Loughlin, founder of 3 Bluebirds Farm.

While she and other parents prepare to take their students back to in-person learning, she’s helping families come up with personalized plans. She and the parents she’s working with worry the on again-off again schedule will confuse autistic or special needs students.

O’Loughlin fears the rotating schedule may hinder her child’s ability to adjust to school after all the work she did to get him used to a ‘new normal’ at the start of the semester.

“It’s very hard, it’s very difficult especially with this particular population,” she said.

Those on the Austism spectrum rely on routine.

“That new normal is going to change again after they go back to school and then come back home and then go back to school and come back home,” said O’Loughlin.

Wake County Public Schools however, told CBS 17, the purpose of rotating students is to help them readjust.

They said in a statement, “Smaller groups of students will be in the building, allowing staff to support them with learning the new routines before they return full-time.”

“The only way to readjust these students is to get them into a routine consistently so this is not a consistent routine,” O’Loughlin said.

The district is publishing social stories. They are short narratives with pictures. The district said they’re meant to help parents explain new norms. The district said they’ve also put in place plans to help with learning loss.

“My child is 16 with a cognitive level of 18 months so there is no talking to him about that. He’s nonverbal, cognitively doesn’t understand this at all,” said O’Loughlin.

Even through concerns- there isn’t anything left for parents to do at this point. They now have to wait and see what the district will bring for their children.

“We’re really doing all that we can do with not a lot of resources,” said O’Loughlin.

Reopening plans by district

Wake County Public Schools: Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade along with special needs students begin a three-week rotation on Oct. 26. Fourth and 5th graders will begin three-week rotations on Nov. 16. Sixth, 7th, and 8th grade students will return on a three-week rotation on Nov. 9

Johnston County Schools: Pre-K and self-contained exceptional children K-12 began on the hybrid Plan B Sept. 28. For kindergarteners, one cohort returned to in-person learning full time on Oct. 5 and 6. The second cohort returned Oct. 8 and 9.

All 1st and 2nd graders returned to classrooms on Oct. 19. They’ll be followed by 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades on Oct. 26.

Sixth through 12th graders are on a hybrid plan that has them split into two groups for staggered in-person learning beginning Oct. 19. One group will attend classes on Mondays and Tuesdays. The other will be in schools on Thursdays and Fridays.

Harnett County Schools: Students are split into two groups with Group A in class on Monday and Tuesday, and Group B in class Thursday and Friday. Harnett County remains under Plan B until at least Oct. 23.

Durham and Orange County school districts have opted to continue with online learning.

Continuing efforts to help those on the spectrum

3 Bluebird Farm is hosting a Trunk-or-Treat.

They are also hosting their Bluebird Ball. Last year’s ball raised over $125,000 to continue offering services.

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