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AACA WH Campus Plan for Reopening Together

On 9/2/2020 Los Angeles County Department of Health announced specific guidelines for the safe reopening of campuses for in person learning for special education. AACA WH intends to open its doors for in person learning sometime during the next few weeks. Because we are still in the midst of a Global Pandemic, and the threat of transmission of COVID19 remains a big concern; our framework will not look the same as it used to.

When AACA West Hills returns to on campus learning, it will be utilizing a hybrid model. Returning AACA students will be divided into 2 cohorts with one group meeting from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm Mondays and Wednesdays and the other meeting during those same hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When it is your student’s “home days”, AACA teachers and support staff will be working with your student remotely to focus on assignments and projects that are being taught during on campus instruction. Fridays will not offer remote teaching instruction as Fridays will be reserved for teacher’s “office hours”, additional breakout sessions with para-professionals, or any other support services your student may have outstanding for that week. Monday through Thursday, clinicians will be on campus to provide individual services to the cohorts who are on onsite. This way all students will have a true mix of in person and remote programming.

While AACA intends to open with this unique program, it is our plan to return to full week in-person instruction when we are able to do so safely; with total compliance. Right now, there are so many concerns regarding safety we want to begin our return to campus by providing staff and students the highest level of protection in order to ensure that everyone has a feeling of comfort about being in person.

We hope you will all bear with us during this transition so that it can be executed as smoothly as possible. If your 2020-21 Student packet has not been turned in to AACA administration, your student will NOT be able to return to on campus learning at all. Our new guidelines specify that we MUST have all our student packets reflecting new items and the updating of older ones for any students who are currently enrolled and attending AACA for any type of instruction.

Dear AACA Parents:

I hope you are all healthy and keeping cool during this crazy heat wave. Just prior to school commencing we held classroom specific town hall meetings. Unfortunately, not all parents were able to attend so I did follow up with a brief recap. Now that we have been back in session for a week or so, I have had opportunity to personally interact with many parents and to hear feedback and concerns. Most of the parents I have heard from have the same basic concerns, so I wanted to take a moment to address the biggest elephant in the room……”how is my very unique student supposed to be online for so long”?

Of course there are other common concerns I will address like, “my student has a very specific schedule and can’t have class/service during these (you insert) hours, so can we just change class time”?, “trying to get my student online is like pulling teeth, and its so boring”, “my student is making no progress, in fact he/she is regressing”, “trying to get these kids online to receive education is absolutely ridiculous and as a result I am angry about having to do it”, “AACA is not doing what they promised when we enrolled (you insert name here) because they are refusing to open”, Doesn’t anybody understand that my child misses his community and is suffering from isolation and depression”?...

Like I said during our meetings, I fully expected to open to on campus learning. Having the Governor announce that we would not only have to open with a distance learning model but also one that would have brand new guidelines was not expected. It was devastating for our entire staff. I more than anyone on my staff, because off my clinical background, am acutely aware of the social emotional toll that this type of learning takes on the population we work with.

Between July 17 and August 12, AACA had to move locations, and reorganize our entire framework for the delivery of academics and related services. Our teachers and clinical staff are working harder and longer now than they ever have. Figuring out how to deliver 120 minutes of synchronized whole group teaching everyday via a virtual platform while attempting to keep the students engaged is very difficult because they all have individualized education plans. So we asked ourselves, “Do we do the entire 2 hours at once?” There is probably no way any of our students could successfully engage in 2 solid hours of group learning. But, if we did do a solid 120 minutes, do we do it in the morning from 9-11 or in the afternoon from 1-3? Either way, there will be parents who will not be happy because it does not work for their schedule. Quite honestly, a solid 2 hour block would be best for AACA and internal scheduling but we KNOW it would not be best for the students and they are our focus. So, that having been said; teachers have broken down the teaching times into more manageable chunks. Then there are the “break-out” sessions with the aides and teachers because AACA teachers know that the kids need more individual time so that they can get the type of support they need as unique learners. Now we have to slot in clinical support services like OT, Speech, APE, etc. Our clinicians have learned to “bob and weave” trying to fit themselves into each teachers limited openings. By now we have almost taken up an entire day. We are also sending out packets of individualized work every 1-2 weeks, and any other items such as manipulatives, pencils, special paper, reinforcers, etc; that your student may require.

All the while on the back end, we are taking data, monitoring all the sessions, and compiling information which will either be sent to your students’ districts, or the CDE because AACA needs to be 100% accountable to all our contracted and governing agencies. The irony is that no matter how unsuccessful trying to utilize distance learning may be with this particular population, we are being watched very closely for compliance. If AACA is to keep its doors open to continue to help the kids that need it the most once it is time to return to onsite learning, then we have no choice but to follow the rules without exception.

We can’t control the rules, but we can control the spirit with which we choose to deliver education and supports. For better or worse, we are in this situation and we can either contribute to the success of our students or further contaminate the process. Our students are acutely aware of when anybody in their universe is out of sorts!

AACA staff understand that distance learning is not appropriate for the severely impacted population we serve. For the record, we want on campus learning!! We miss your kids!! We know you are unhappy. We know your children are much better served by being on campus. We have TONS of data we have painstakingly taken ourselves, which support this fact. But for now we can’t change the situation.

So I am asking you all to stay strong, remain engaged, and keep plugging away. Your teachers desperately need your support. When you are engaged in online learning with your student, please be as positive as possible because your positivity has an effect on not only your own student’s emotional reactivity, but also on everyone else in the meeting. A smiling face goes a long way. Please do not talk during the sessions unless you are prompted to do so by the teacher because sometimes, certain comments can be perceived in an unintended way by another parent or student. If you think your student needs additional individual support, please reach out to your teacher via email. If you have criticism, please wait until after the session and voice your concerns to the teacher directly. Please do not ask your teacher to rearrange the daily schedule because your student likes to “nap, eat, play, watch TV, etc” during that particular time because ALL our kiddos are KIDS, and they all happen to be very rigid in their habits, preferences, and thinking so they would all like to be doing something other than learning! If your child is suffering from depression or other social emotional issues due to having to remain at home during COVID19 and the inability to be on campus for learning, please let your teacher know because we can work with you to get counseling for your student.

I know this is not easy and that many of you are just plain exhausted. If nobody has told you lately; you are all amazing. From the bottom of my heart I thank you all for your continued support. AACA will remain vigilant in our goal to get your kids back on campus just as soon as it is possible to do so.

Leslie Michelle

Administrator, AACA

Dear AACA Parents:

Tomorrow our Fall 2020-21 semester begins. We had such high hopes that we would be able to open our campus to in person learning; only to be mandated by Governor Newsom to open with a distance learning model. Words could not possibly express our disappointment at this news. The staff at AACA know too well, the impact this news has on our students and their families. Many of us are in similar situations with our own children.

AACA has and will continue to work to take full advantage of any loopholes that may come our way which may enable us to enhance the delivery of education and/or services to our students. In order to make this semester successful and ensure our students’ continued progress; we are asking all of our parents and caregivers to become an integral part of the learning process. Your engagement with your student in their learning is so important to their continued success. Our teachers, clinicians and support staff will do whatever they can to make themselves available to work with you in collaboration to understand how best to support your student. Our teachers have worked very hard to set up their virtual curriculum to meet the very strict standards mandated by the California Department of Education. Because they are required to do a certain amount of “whole group instruction”, there are aspects of their class schedules which are absolutely not flexible. Despite the fact that our current learning model MUST be virtual, it remains compliant with the state and federal mandates that require students to attend school.

We will continue to use TEAMS as our virtual platform. If you do not know how to use TEAMS, please email Adam Bernstein our Operations Manager at Abernstein@autismacademy.org and he will get instructions out to you. If your student does not have a device which would enable them to log into their virtual classroom, please email Leslie Michelle, Administrator at Lmichelle@autismacademy.org and we will make sure a device is provided for them.

When we do return to on-site learning, we will be so excited to show all of our students and their families our new facility, our new classroom furniture and on campus supports! Until then, stay healthy and remember…..we are in this together!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email or call the office. We will continue to update you as new information is available.

AACA WH Administration

Antelope Valley

Phone: (661)946-1234 Fax: (661) 946-5678

6742 East Avenue H, Lancaster CA 93535

 

West Hills

7353 Valley Circle Blvd., West Hills, CA 91304

 

Phone: (818) 882-0200 Fax: (818) 882-0206

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