by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Distance learning presents challenges for all students. However, for students in a special education program or students learning English, distance learning produces unique difficulties. To help address these challenges, middle and high school students in the special education or English learner (EL) programs at Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) have the opportunity to learn in person on extra days each week.
While WAPS implements hybrid learning for sixth through 12th graders — meaning they attend school in person two days a week — sixth through 12th graders in the special education or EL programs may go to class in person four days a week. The district offers families of students in the special education or EL programs the option for their students to attend school in person four days a week.
On the additional days students in the special education program are at school, they could work through previous lessons again with a teacher, receive help from a teacher with completing school work, and access services, such as speech, vision or physical therapy services, WAPS Superintendent Annette Freiheit said.
“Our SPED [special education] population would be our highest risk category of learners,” WAPS Special Education Director Sarah Knudsen said, regarding students in special education being at risk of not receiving the education they need during distance learning. “And so having the four days of support where they get in-person SPED services, certainly that in-person learning is a better option than distance learning.”
Teachers of students in the EL program could focus on helping students further their understanding of English, assist them with understanding prior lessons and help them apply what they have learned to their school work on the extra days they are in class, Freiheit said.
“This allows them to get the in-person support and direction and guidance every day, except for Wednesday when on distance learning,” Freiheit stated. She continued, “I also think it’s kind of a mental health thing. It’s that social-emotional connection you get by being in a smaller group and getting those needs met on those days.”
Maintaining a routine of coming to school most days of the week helps some students succeed academically, as well, Freiheit added. Students still complete distance learning on Wednesdays.
At Winona Senior High School (WSHS), students may retake or make up tests or quizzes on the additional days, WSHS Principal Mark Anderson said.They may also complete labs. “It’s an opportunity to come in and learn the things they’ve missed,” Anderson stated.
WSHS leaders are also thinking about how they could provide opportunities to attend school on additional days for seniors and juniors who are not on track for graduation and for students who do not have reliable internet access, Anderson said.
Keep reading the Winona Post for updates on local schools.