Disruption to summer special needs program causes disappointment

MINNEAPOLIS — Some Minneapolis parents have an unexpected logistical challenge to figure out. Children with higher level special needs can no longer go to their summer programs. WCCO found out what’s happening to students with disabilities and why the district says they had no choice.

Adoma is 6 years old.  She just finished kindergarten in the Minneapolis Public School system. Her mom Alyssa Erickson describes her, “She just wakes up in the morning, ready to go, she wakes up, excited and happy and ready to take on the world.”

But her world will be a little smaller than expected this summer – the summer program she was supposed to go to is now virtual.

“They sent the letter out, we received it last week Monday and the extended school year program was scheduled to start next week,” Erikson said.

Adoma, who has a down syndrome diagnosis, and her peers with disabilities were supposed to have a summer program, they’ll still have it but it will be online – which means Adoma is out.

“We already tried it during the pandemic, she can’t engage, she really doesn’t learn through the computer.  I was really disappointed because the point of the extended school year is to provide additional support,” Erikson said.

A spokesperson for Minneapolis Public Schools says they sent a letter to parents saying they have been working on a plan since November, they were optimistic but just realized because of staffing shortages they would have to roll the program back to virtual.

So this family will adjust, as Adoma knows how to make the best of a situation. 

“She’s doing great but yes, it’s an unfortunate decision, an unfortunate set of circumstances that have a disproportionate impact on certain people, especially families with less resources,” Erikson said.

The district blamed the changes on special education licensing and a shortage of applicants.  School leaders say they’re working on a residency program with the University of St. Thomas and developing an internal paid teacher preparation program to prevent this from happening again.

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