People are reacting to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order, which allows for in-person special education instruction this summer.

What You Need To Know

  • In-person special education instruction is allowed to proceed this summer
  • There is a lot to do prior to reopening classrooms safely
  • Schools are in talks with the New York State Education Department for guidance and regulatory relief

Donna Dedee, president and CEO of Holy Childhood in Henrietta, says while in-person instruction is effective for students with special needs and developmental disabilities to thrive, there is a lot to do prior to reopening classrooms safely.

"If it comes to pass that we are open indeed after July 6, which would be the traditional extended summer learning program, then so be it. We have to make sure that we are ready with policies, procedures, safety and health protocol, protective equipment, and some facility changes that would have to occur,” said Dedee.

Dedee says there is a coalition of schools, like Holy Childhood, in talks with the New York State Education Department for guidance and regulatory relief.

"Our traditional classroom ratio is eight students, one teacher and three aides in the classroom. So that’s more than 10 people in a 900-square-foot space. That runs counter to CDC guidelines with respect to the number of people who can be in a particular area. We have to consider, can we alter the ratios? Should we change the space where we deliver instruction?" said Dedee.

The faculty and staff at Holy Childhood are already getting the school ready, cleaning and organizing for students in weeks to come. In an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19, will New York’s face covering order be a requirement for everyone in the classroom?

"We know from a behavioral standpoint, [masks] will perhaps be a trigger; from a health standpoint some people may not be comfortable,” said Dedee.

Parental discretion is also a factor. Chris Tumminelli is the father of 13-year-old Landon. Landon has attended Holy Childhood since kindergarten.

"How is the CDC going to regulate to make this a homogenous rollout?" Tumminelli asks. “How do we do this with every child? Not every child is the same. Every child is unique and has different needs."

"This is going to be a changing situation," Dedee admits, "and then once we get that data, we make our decisions internally and then we’ll communicate fully with all of our families."