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CPS Parents: COVID-19 Planning for Kids with Specialized Learning Needs

On Thursday, March 26, we convened a brainstorm between Cincinnati Public Schools, the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and parents of kids with specialized learning needs, e.g. 504's, IEP's, and gifted, to understand their specific concerns and priorities during the COVID-19 health crisis. This is an incredibly hard time for everyone, especially parents who are trying to balance work from home and keeping their kids' schoolwork on track. This is acutely true for families who typically rely on specialized learning environments for their children. We are grateful to CPS and the parents who joined this discussion!

Top Takeaways:

  1. Parents want clear schoolwork schedules and checklists, at-home instruction and answer guides, and communications plans from their kids’ teachers. Many parents, especially those with children who have specialized learning needs, feel like they need a lot more information from teachers about what to do with their children.

  2. Communicate with parents through a variety of channels, including robocalls, mass texts, social media, tv announcements, and mailers. Parents want to be sure they aren’t missing any communication from CPS, so they encouraged the district to get the word out using every available channel.

  3. Keep IEP and 504 processes on track and update parents who are in the middle of those processes about likely timelines. This is especially important for students who are set to transition to a new school after this year.

  4. Set clear expectations: Parents want to know what they can and should expect from teachers and intervention specialists. Parents are sensitive that teachers are struggling to keep up with all of the changes as well and don’t want to ask for too much, but they want to know what can be reasonably expected.

  5. Provide enrichment and individualized learning materials for gifted and other students with specialized learning needs. Parents would like to see more enrichment opportunities provided for students who finish the packets early, and more individualized lessons for children with specialized learning plans.

Additional Ideas and Priorities:

Create private facebook groups for individual classes with the parents and students. Use those groups as the platform to share updates on schoolwork and to initiate individual conversations with parents and students.

Celebrate teachers who are going above and beyond, and create public recognition efforts on social media. Parents recognize that many teachers are doing an incredible job, and they want to lift up the teachers in their lives who are doing amazing work on behalf of their children.

Establish a set of standard communications expectations between parents and teachers.

For example, let parents know that teachers will respond to emails, calls, and texts within 24-48 hours, if possible.

Send checklists to parents, with detailed schedules of activity and school work, and schedule teacher-parent “office hours” for questions.

Daily “read-aloud” sessions between teachers and students over the phone or video have been something parents have really appreciated.

Provide “guided answer sections” at the back of every school work packet sent out, so parents can try to better lead instructions. Many parents are struggling to teach their kids, and “teacher sections” at the back of every assignment would help.

Let parents know how the packets and assigned work corresponds to a plan and curriculum of learning, so it doesn’t feel like busywork. Parents are eager that their children don’t fall behind, and want to know how their assignments are linked to a larger strategy of learning.


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