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This letter is specifically addressed to Gov. Brian Kemp.
We live in Decatur, GA, and our son, Paul, is in fifth grade at Hawthorne Elementary. He is 12 years old and has Down Syndrome and apraxia of speech. He is pretty amazing. Dekalb County is doing virtual school only and has only started conversations about the return to school but it’s not clear. The first two weeks had too many technical issues to name. My family and I were prepared for a learning curve but hoped the district would have been better prepared knowing that virtual school was inevitable when school began again in August.
I honestly cannot put into words what this has put our family through. This is why it is so important to have these micro-grants put into place. It would decrease the stress on my family if we knew that we might have some funds to use for one on one tutoring. You see my son happens to have apraxia and Down Syndrome and that means he is unable to communicate his answers to anything that the teacher asks him. This also means that he cannot gesture to communicate or point. Today the teacher asked one student what happened in science and did not ask my son because she knew he was unable to tell her. This kind of thing breaks a mother’s heart. We could really use some help and some hope.
I am not necessarily saying that I want my son to return face to face as I think that has its own set of problems especially with a school that does not have good circulation, an old HVAC system and numerous leaks in the ceiling. My son’s teachers are working non-stop and trying their best to make this work, but they have numerous children in their classrooms with a wide variety of differences. The way that virtual learning is set up does not leave enough time for children to actually process the information and answer questions that the teacher is asking. There is only 20 minutes of instruction and this is not enough time to cover the material. Again, this is not the teacher’s fault it is how the district set up the schedule.
Every student in the state has been affected by COVID-19 — but perhaps nobody more than children with special needs. Services we’ve relied on haven’t been provided in months and many of us have little hope of receiving adequate support from the school system until COVID is eliminated.
I’m writing to you as a parent of a child with special needs to implore you to help.
Governors in South Carolina and Florida have also used their CARES Act funds to create microgrants to help parents pay for educational expenses and services.
You have said you were a supporter of school choice and believed that parents should be empowered to find the best situation for their children. Now is the time where this line of thinking can help us the most. Parents need help now more than ever. This is your chance to lead.
I would love to give you a better insight into our “virtual” school day if you have a chance to talk. I do not have much time during the day because I am sitting next to him helping him navigate the system and to help him communicate. I have had to stop working and my part-time salary is what we used to help with tutoring and extra therapy. Another reason that these grants would help so much.
Proud mom of Paul and Mary Frances
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