Families in Special Education programs have tough decision to make for the Fall


SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — This semester, teachers and parents will have to overcome plenty of hurdles to keep students safe during the pandemic.

But for children in the Special Education program, those obstacles are going to look a little different.

Eight-year-old Ryder Koontz has down syndrome, which makes the decision of going back to school a tough one.

“He is not mindful of keeping his hands out of his mouth or touching things, washing his hands before he touches things, and I know a lot of other kids who are like him are like that,” said his mother Jennifer Koontz. “I don’t expect the teachers to follow him around and sanitize every minute.”

Ryder also gets sick pretty often.

So, his mother Jennifer has decided to add the title of educator to the many roles she has in his life.

“My mommy be the teacher with the board,” said Ryder.

She’s not the only one in the NWA area who has had to make this decision for her child.

We took to Facebook to ask other parents about how they’re handling sending their young ones with special needs back to the classroom.

Andrea Vanhecke told us she has a son with severe autism.

She said right now, he can only wear a mask for 10-20 seconds, which won’t work in school districts that require them.

Tara Harshaw with Springdale Public Schools said the district has a plan in place to help the many parents who will be teaching from home.

“If the child is a special education student, then they’ll also have the support of special education teacher who can come in a virtually help them get over whatever hump they may be on,” she said.

Just like for special needs students learning virtually, Harshaw said there will be hurdlers for those taking in-person classes.

“We have also got students who have sensory issues that may not be able to wear the mask that fits right up on the face,” said Harshaw.

So, the district is looking at options.

It’s specifically eyeing face shields, so kids who are hearing impaired or have sensory issues can lip-read.

“Everyone has their own opinion and own choice that they have to make and we’re going to have to deal with it,” said Koontz. “I’m concerned for him and for me but, we’ll get through it.”

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