Fairfax Schools Superintendent Says Special Needs Students Are Priority for In-Person Instruction

Special needs students are among the first groups who should get in-person instruction, school officials say

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Fairfax County School Superintendent Scott Brabrand on Wednesday told parents he wants special needs students to have some type of opportunity for in-person learning as soon as possible.

The remarks came during a virtual town hall meeting where parents facing a fall semester of distance learning asked for help.

"The decision that I recommended to the school board to go virtual, I believe, even three weeks later, was the right decision for Fairfax County Public Schools," Brabrand said.

Brabrand was flanked by two school system mental health staff when fielding phone calls and emails from parents and teachers daunted by the prospect of another semester of online learning.

"My son is 5 and going into an enhanced autism kindergarten class," one parent wrote. "I don't know how he is going to be able to do virtual learning."

Special needs students have been identified by school officials as "some of the very first priority cohorts of kids" who should be brought back into buildings, Brabrand said.

Other emails summed up the frustrations many parents are dealing with as the typical school schedule is upended.

One parent asked for advice on how to structure their child's day without overstepping boundaries.

"I don't want to yell — but it often comes down to that," they said.

Claudia McDowell, a mental wellness specialist, said that flexibility, grace with each other and really close collaboration with a child's teacher play a big role there.

"I just want to thank the person who wrote that email," Brabrand said. "The vulnerability to share that sometimes you're yelling at your child... that's not the outcome that I know you want as a parent nor that any of us want."

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