School will look a little different this fall for Boulder Valley students with special needs – some will be learning remotely, while others will spend part of their week in the classroom and the rest at home.

“The special education teams will work with students’ individualized needs to help support their learning,” said Dennis Rastatter, executive director of special education for Boulder Valley School District.

Boulder Valley School District will provide all students, including those in the special education program, with three options for the 2020-21 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first option will involve Boulder Universal, an online school where students can engage in learning outside the dictates of the regular school day.

The other two options will feature remote learning with the student’s regular teachers either five days a week or in a hybrid model with two days in person and three online. With the hybrid model, there also will be an opportunity for paid custodial care on the school site, so that parents with elementary-aged children can still work.

Students received the tools they needed for remote learning during the state-mandated March shutdown of schools, said Randy Barber, chief communications officer for Boulder Valley School District. Chromebooks were distributed to the students who didn’t already have them – high school and many middle school students are issued them as part of their regular education, he said. At that time, students in special education may have received additional tools specific to their needs and as determined by collaborative decision-making among families, special education team members and members of the assistive technology team, Rastatter said.

That includes students in the special education program, which serves nearly 4,000 students on Individualized Education Plans and represents about 12 percent of the student population. The program provides differentiated instruction for the students and any accommodations, modifications and services that they may need to be able to access their learning. Most of the students are included in the general education classroom at least part of the day and may be pulled out for additional instruction in math and literacy and for services like occupational, speech and physical therapy.

“Our first goal is to keep kids included in the general education environment to the maximum extent that’s appropriate for that student,” Rastatter said.

The school district offers a continuum of services to meet more significant needs, as well as three intensive learning centers with a more intensive level of service. The centers are for students who have autism and have multiple cognitive, medical/physical, communication and social/emotional needs.

“The more intensive level of services might include additional support and specialized instruction through a special education team,” Rastatter said. “Due to the continuum of services we offer and the talents of our staff, we can meet the needs of the majority of students within our attendance area.”

By Shelley Widhalm, for Raised in the Rockies