There have been lingering questions about how to engage students with disabilities and English-language learners as Metro Nashville Public Schools prepares for an all-virtual start to the semester.
One concern from parents has been about the need for specialized learning plans for exceptional education learners, and specific language supports for ELL students — which district leaders say is a top priority.
Metro Schools Interim Chief Academic Officer David Williams says the key to reaching these students will be giving them access to the district’s core curriculum.
“[This will be] in combination with a general education teacher and any ‘EL’ or ‘EE’ teacher that needs to collaborate, and provide scaffolds and modifications as appropriate,” says Williams.
The district is planning to provide English-language learners and exceptional education students with specialized COVID-19 learning plans, along with other resources that parents can use in a digital learning environment.
“We’re going to be reaching out to parents, and working with teachers in the special education department to transfer the strategies and supports that are currently in the student’s IEP,” says Adrienne Battle, the director of Metro Schools.
Battle says the district kicked off its teletherapy services this summer, and will be integrating this initiative into the Metro Schools virtual learning platform. She says the services are neither ideal nor perfect, but that school leaders are working to replicate the experiences that students would have in a face-to-face setting.
The district is contracting with the Florida Virtual School, which is run by a nonprofit that’s overseen by the Florida Department of Education, to help deliver instructions during the online learning phase.
District leaders have already partnered with the school in at least some capacity, but they are expanding the partnership to support all students. The Metro Nashville school board approved a multi-year contract with the online school on Tuesday evening.
School leaders say there will also be translation support for students from non-English backgrounds. These students will be provided with a minimum of one hour per day of language services, including opportunities for live and at your own pace teaching lessons.
“We prioritize our English learners … because we know that [this] is a student group that we need to be inclusive [with],” says Battle. “Our ‘EL’ team and our exceptional education team are working closely together because we sometimes see similar needs or students who might fall into both categories.”