South Bay mother desperate for in-person learning options for son with special needs, fears delay in his progress

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Many uncertainties remain when it comes to what the upcoming school year might look like.

It's known that counties on the state's coronavirus watch list are all preparing for a distance learning start. However, that approach is not fit for all students.

ABC7 News introduced viewers to 6-year-old Jacob Tran. He was diagnosed with global development delay.

Similar to many students, parents and teachers across the state, his class of six with severe special needs will be distance learning only in the fall.

Now his mother, Christin Tran, is desperate to find in-person options.

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"I think that even if it's just two days in person, it would really greatly be beneficial for Jacob, who can't focus in front of a Zoom meeting for more than two minutes before throwing a tantrum or before he runs away," Christin Tran told ABC7 News.

"His classroom had been so tremendously beneficial for him in terms of its growth," she added. "In terms of his learning, because his teachers are so amazing at what they do."

She recently posted her story to Facebook. Before going into detail, she asked publicly, "Is it OK to feel angry about this situation?"

"I asked for permission to be upset is because I know where the teachers are coming from," Tran said. "I understand how scary it is. I get it. Every day I go to work, and sometimes I feel like, am I being selfish leaving my kids? Because there are risks."

Her post was met with more than a hundred responses, proof that Tran wasn't alone.

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"We know that school opens in three weeks so we know we're racing against the clock," said State Superintendent Tony Thurmond in a virtual press conference with the Closing the Digital Divide Task Force.



Tran is a front line worker at a local pharmacy. She feels if there is a safe way to get students back in class, especially those needing additional help, it's is something worth exploring right now.

"My desperate plea is for those out there that are in the position of power to make the decisions," she said. "Think about not just other kids, but also special needs kids. What about migrant workers? What about homeless kids? What about foster kids? Some of the most highly in need in terms of getting in-person learning."

Even with the understanding that health and safety are paramount, Tran fears Jacob will regress further.

"As a parent who doesn't have the training, or the background, or the resources to kind of jump in and take over, it's been incredibly difficult," she told ABC7 News.

She fears any inaction will impact Jacob's potential.

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"He finally mastered ABC," she said. "And I know that was a very long road for us, but he is capable of learning and let's not dismiss that he can do things."

Tran understands it doesn't help that navigating today's normal requires explicit direction from the state.

ABC7 News learned that quickly in any effort to interview school officials on the county and local levels.

We should note, none are alone it the search for a solution.

Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Ann Dewan offered the following statement:

"We are all eager to resume in-person instruction. Nonetheless, it is imperative that school districts in Santa Clara County adhere to the directives released by the California Department of Public Health and the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health. These orders provide the necessary safety guidance to minimize the health risks for students and staff. The Santa Clara County Office of Education will continue to monitor the situation, consult with districts as they develop reopening plans, and collaborate with county partners to align resources that support the County's diverse needs."

Berryessa Union School District, where Jacob is enrolled, is one of a significant number of districts facing questions about the upcoming school year.

In a statement to ABC7 News, BUSD Superintendent Dr. Roxane Fuentes said:

"Regardless of the governor's direction in terms of reopening schools, the district will do whatever it takes to support its special needs students who we recognize are in higher need of support services from their school district. We are working through the complex nature of this situation to secure the necessary resources, and remain committed to ensuring that every one of our students receives the support that they need."

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"Regardless of the governor's direction in terms of reopening schools, the district will do whatever it takes to support its special needs students who we recognize are in higher need of support services from their school district."

ABC7 News also connected with the California Teachers Association of Berryessa, who acknowledged it's a complex situation, before declining a scheduled interview and directing us elsewhere.

"I sincerely hope that the school district is true to its words," Tran told ABC7 News.



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"We are so appreciative of the school district for providing services for Jacob," she said. "He gets occupational therapy, he gets some physical therapy- modified. He gets visual therapy, he gets speech therapy. He is very delayed in his speech, though he is 6-years-old."

She said her family has depended upon BUSD for these services and in classroom settings, have helped provide tremendous progress.

Tran learned recently about the Waivers for Elementary Schools option, posted to the county's Public Health Department website.

The directive reads:

"Notwithstanding the closure in monitoring counties, the CDPH guidance specifically provides a pathway for in-person instruction at elementary schools: A waiver of this criteria mandating distance learning may be granted by the local health officer for elementary schools to open for in-person instruction. A waiver may only be granted if one is requested by the superintendent, or equivalent for charter or private schools, in consultation with labor, parent and community organizations. Local health officers must review local community epidemiological data, consider other public health interventions, and consult with CDPH when considering a waiver request."

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The request requires great detail. You can find information by clicking here.

However, even if superintendents apply for a waiver for in-person instruction, ABC7 News is told the local teachers union would need to agree, and ultimately the governor's office.

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