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Santa Clara County Superintendent Discusses Distance Learning Plans For Fall

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- South Bay non-profit Parents Helping Parents hosted Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Dewan on Monday to discuss back-to-school plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic and resources available for parents.

Since Santa Clara County is on the state's watch list, all schools -- private, charter and public -- are required to start the academic year with a distance learning model to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. This may put children with disabilities at a disadvantage, but Dewan said the county has been preparing resources throughout the summer to accommodate all needs.

"We recognize that this is not the ideal way for some services to be provided and that may mean additional support is provided to adults, so training to teachers, professionals and support for parents," she said.

Inclusion Collaborative is a resource hub for parents started by the County's Office of Education to assist with distance learning. The office has also started a hotline for parents called Warmline that is available eight hours a day to provide parents with alternate resources for children and answer questions. The Warmline can be reached by phone at (408) 453-6651 or email at WarmLineRemoteLearning@sccoe.oeg.

The county will also be starting a parent support group in August so parents can come together and share different resources and techniques that worked for them. Dewan recommended that the best way for parents to ensure success for their children is to stay informed on changes happening in the country in response to COVID-19 and participate in district-wide meetings and town halls.

"Give teachers feedback and principals feedback on how your distance learning experience is going," she said. Children who develop new needs or challenges should contact the school's principal, request assistance and work with a pediatrician.

Dewan also recommended that parents engage with children who develop anxiety or trauma from sheltering in place for the past four months and teach them how to express and identify their feelings.

"Creating some practices, schedules and routines within your home that help reduce anxiety will also be really helpful. That gives children a sense of safety, they know what to expect and they can gain a sense of control and calmness," Dewan said.

As of right now, there are no plans for any class or therapy to take place in person. However, Dewan said there may be an opportunity in the coming months to advocate to the state for exceptions to the distance learning mandate.

"I do hope that over the course of the first few weeks at school, we may be able to come together and really advocate to the governor for some ways in which some level of in-person support can be given even in the counties that may be on the state's watch list," Dewan said.

Schools may switch to a hybrid or in-person model, with mask wearing, physical distancing and other guidelines, when the county is off the state's watch list for 14 days. Parents will be allowed to opt out of in-person learning if a child or family member is immunocompromised or at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Parents who are looking for more information can go to the Inclusion Collaboration website.

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