Reopening K-12 schools for in-person learning is a key priority across the San Gabriel Valley and much of California. Beginning September 14th the Pasadena Public Health Department began issuing re-opening waivers for schools. These waivers require schools to follow strict protocols including regular COVID-19 tests for staff, students and families, and flu vaccinations for staff, students and families returning to campus.
Classes are limited to 12-person stable cohorts. Student interaction across cohorts is not allowed but a teacher may teach two different cohorts. In addition over 50% of class time must be outdoors and only 25% of enrolled students are allowed to return to schools.
To date, very few schools in Pasadena have the resources to follow this protocol.
One conversation that is emerging in the bid to reopen schools is what counts as "specific needs" sometimes also termed an accomodation. In this waiver application, the Pasadena Public Health provide ESL (English as a Second Language) and IEP (Individualized Education Plans) as examples of students with specific needs.
At a private progressive K-12 school, specific needs are also defined as the need for social-emotional learning (SEL). For their K-3rd grade students, SEL primarily consists of outdoor playtime at the school farm (https://theasthmafiles.org/content/toxic-walks-visualizing-walk-farm) . Private schools are able to define SEL as specific needs because they are private and do not have large numbers of students in ESL/English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs or students with IEP.
This is an example of how certain definitions of specific needs are not available to many students inspite of wide-spread studies that SEL is critical for all students, across all grade-levels.
Anonymous, 5 November 2020, "Defining "Students with Specific Needs"", contributed by Nadine Tanio and Fred Ariel Hernandez, Disaster STS Network, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 5 November 2020, accessed 14 August 2022. http://www.disaster-sts-network.org/content/defining-students-specific-needs