KINGSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — For children with autism, who rely on touch to interact with the world, the pandemic has made the world much smaller. That is why a local school that teaches students with special needs plans to go ahead with in-person learning.
Dozens of students will be returning to The Graham Academy for the first time in about a half-year. While it will be a familiar environment, students will still see some noticeable changes.
“It’s going to look a lot different this year,” Dan Lavelle, Director of Operations at The Graham Academy told Eyewitness News.
While The Graham Academy’s student population may struggle dealing with change, the school’s two sites will have to take steps to keep everyone safe.
The days of no face masks and close contact are on hold and students as well as staff will be tested by nurses before they enter the building.
More than half of the Kingston site’s 95 enrolled students will do in-person learning, spread throughout the spacious building.
“We are going to try our best to keep the six foot distance,” Lavelle said. “The CDC has actually clarified that it is now down to three feet but we are going to err on the side of caution and do our best to make sure at all times that students are at a six foot distance.”
Lavelle is committed to making in-person learning work through the restrictions. He believes students with special needs who’ve been isolated for months are regressing.
“I think regression is going to be a big thing for a lot of our students, that kind of summer slide from them unexpectedly being out of school as long as they have,” he said.
Another concern of his? Students on the brink of breaking who require therapies.
“We’re going to need to look really at a holistic approach to our students and really look as far as their mental health needs, social emotional skills and look at building that up,” Lavelle said.
Teachers, teaching aides and therapists will continue training for the reopening of The Graham Academy. The first day of school is September 8th.
The Graham Academy serves students with special needs from Luzerne, Lackawanna, Carbon and Schuylkill Counties. The school is contracted with 20 local districts.