Inclusive Education and In Home Supports

Alberta Revised COVID-19 Restrictions: Inclusive Education and In-Home Supports

November 26, 2020
*UPDATE: MAY 5, 2021
With the shift to online learning May 7th, we have updated information, tips and resources for parents and educators here:  Students With Disabilities Online Exemption: Inclusive Education and In-Home Supports.
Re: Alberta School Restriction & Inclusive Education
As you have likely already heard, the Alberta government introduced new public health measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 earlier this week. Since that time, many stakeholders including Inclusion Alberta have requested that the government provide much-needed clarification to the new measures that are being imposed.
Junior high and high school students are all now going to shift to online learning, at least until January when the province will again evaluate where Alberta stands relative to COVID-19.  However, there is an exemption to this requirement for students with disabilities which reads as follows: 
“Supporting students with disabilities and (students) in outreach programs
  • All students with disabilities who require support and services in any grade and students in outreach programs can continue to receive supports and services in-person at school, regardless of the shifts to at-home learning before and after the winter break.
  • This exemption for in-person learning was based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
  • In consultation with parents, schools are expected to continue to provide students with disabilities with services and support they need.
  • Parents should work with their teacher and school principal on appropriate arrangements.”
For students with disabilities who were receiving an inclusive education we would recommend that you take the following actions over the coming weeks, nearly all of which were already applicable to those students who were in online learning prior to the new restrictions.
When discussing the supports your son or daughter requires to be engaged in online learning, we suggest in discussions with your teacher and/or principal, you might want to have at hand the above quoted statement from the Alberta government. 
To support online learning and engagement here are some examples of what you can consider (this is not an exhaustive list):
  • adapted lesson plans for the subjects/topics currently being taught
  • reports and/or feedback on how your child has done on completing assignments, homework, quizzes, projects, etc. 
  • your child to be called upon to respond, with support and however your child best communicates, to teacher inquiries 
  • child to be involved in group projects with appropriate modifications and opportunities to report back to classmates
  • individual online assistance and support from teachers/educational aides 
  • needed adaptive or technological aides to participate in online learning (e.g., devices that enable children with mobility challenges to interface with a computer or table; equipment that was available and needed for in class learning and participation when at school to be provided at home during the restrictions, etc.)
We encourage parents to share what they have been able to arrange with their child’s teacher and principals, openly on social media or by dropping us a line so as to provide other parents with ideas. And if you cannot obtain what you believe ought to be provided, then please consider contacting Inclusion Alberta to see if we might be of assistance.
A more challenging consideration for parents who want their child to have a fully inclusive education and perhaps have even fought hard to obtain inclusion, is the exemption to the restrictions that allows for students with disabilities in junior high and high schools to physically attend school. As their non-disabled classmates will not be present, students with disabilities may find it odd or difficult to learn in a classroom by themselves. This may in fact be more challenging than the challenges inherent in online learning.  
There is also the risk that schools, however mistakenly misguided, will offer the following which parents will need to safeguard against.
If a school has more than one student with disabilities continuing with in school learning, it may group these students together and in effect create a segregated and congregated special education classroom where one did not exist before. If a school already has a special education class it may argue that a student with disabilities who was included should now be placed in the segregated classroom.
Perhaps a better option, if some direct in school support is needed, is to only have the student attend for the equivalent of what would typically be a tutoring experience – that is, personal support from a teacher or aide to work on a specific need for a limited time period.
In addition to schools providing needed supports during the restriction, you might need a support person at home during school hours. Yesterday’s clarifications by Dr. Hinshaw on in home gathering restrictions, allows for this support to continue. However, parents still have to find their own in-home assistance. As before, if you have an FSCD agreement you should have the flexibility to use your existing funding for this support during school hours. As of yet, FSCD has not committed to any emergency funding to enable families to hire needed in-home support for their child’s online learning, so that if they need to work they can do so. Inclusion Alberta will be asking for this but it is very unlikely the government will make even this short term commitment.  
We realize not every family who is committed to an inclusive education can readily have their child at home and maintain their employment during the next three weeks. If you find you have no other choice but to have your child at school and the only option the school will agree to is a placement in special education classroom we recommend contacting Inclusion Alberta to see if we can arrange an alternative option for you. At the very least we advise letting the principal know via an email that you are only agreeing to this placement during the three week restrictions, doing so under duress, and that your child is to return to the regular classroom as soon as a return to school for all students is permitted. 
As more information becomes available we will share what we learn.
Stay safe and in touch.
Trish Bowman
CEO, Inclusion Alberta