Parent of special ed student concerned over FWCS teacher transition

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As Fort Wayne Community Schools continues to adapt to changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, some parents are concerned about the impact it has on children in special education.

Students across the district were assigned new teachers because of a policy change, but one mom told WANE 15 the new teacher was from a different elementary school and was not made aware of her son’s special needs.

Melissa Close said her 8-year-old son has ADHD and is also on the Autism Spectrum. When FWCS gave parents the option for in-person or remote learning, Close said she was told her child would continue with the same teacher he started with. That changed after four weeks.

FWCS reassigned her son and other students with special needs to a new teacher, she said. During an e-mail exchange with that new teacher, Close learned that the district failed to provide new teacher with copies of her son’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) before the first day of class.

“My child does not sit still on zoom,” she said. “He’s up down all over the place, I’m constantly prompting him to sit back down. It was hard. The worst week we had in remote learning.”

IEP is a legal document that is developed for children in public schools who needs special education. The document includes goals set by parents and staff for the child during the school year, and any special support needed to achieve them.

FWCS Superintendent Dr. Mark Daniel said they had no choice but to shift students across the district.

“As you get into our special needs population, there are some students who have had that special needs teacher from kindergarten to third grade lets say,” said Daniel. “That’s familiarity. That’s relationship building. We would like to maintain that but because of balancing numbers sometimes you do have to shift students.”

Daniel said his was part of a week-long transition. All teachers should now be aware of each students needs, he said.

“That information should flow immediately to those teachers,” said Daniel. “Our special ed department and our director of special ed department would ensure that would happen. Every teacher should know if a student has an IEP in their class. They should know those needs. So they should be providing differentiated instruction according to the IEP.”

Daniel said the district is still working through some growing pains but he is confident that faculty and staff are working to give students the best learning experience possible. He asks that parents have patience.

“I understand it’s a huge district but the way they handled this transition is unacceptable,” she said. “I have done my homework on the situation, but think this is something that should be brought to light and not just brushed under the rug.”

After learning of the mishap, Close reached out to a INSOURCE, which is an advocacy group for parents and children who have special needs. Close was told to file a complaint with the Indiana Department of Education. 

WANE 15 made multiple attempts to contact INSOURCE

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