New York issues guidance for in-person special education over summer

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Families across New York of children with special needs are finally getting a piece of good news after months of their kids not receiving in-person therapy and special education.

Schools like the New Interdisciplinary School in Yaphank announced they will now be offering in-person services for students.

The move came after the New York State Department of Education issued guidance over the weekend on how schools for children with special needs should operate.

On June 5, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order allowing in-person special education instruction this summer, but man districts said they couldn't resume without guidance from the state.

Jacqui Saunders, of Nesconset, has three children with special needs. Her home school district, the Smithtown School District, had said that beginning July 20, special education programs would transition from virtual learning to an alternating in-person and remote learning schedule.

"It's just not good enough," Saunders said. "They're supposed to be going every day."

Thousands of parents across the country had reported their children were regressing without the desperately needed specialized therapies that they are unable to do on their own.

"When you have a child with special needs, the education to continue throughout the year is so important because there is such regression of steps," said Kevin Anthony, whose 4-year-old son Colin attends The New Interdisciplinary School.

Anthony said he believes his son has fallen so far behind in his therapy from not receiving in-person services throughout the past few months that he will have to continue special education for another year.

Colin had been preparing to matriculate into a typical classroom before schools shut down.

The Executive Director of The New Interdisciplinary School, Jay Silverstein, had previously said in a letter to parents that school officials are unable to offer in-person services this summer because the school had not received clear guidance from state agencies on how to operate in a safe way.

"We have not received any further guidance from the State Education Department," he wrote at the time. "We cannot make an independent decision to reopen lacking clear guidance from these agencies; to do so would risk our license, funding and future operational capacity."

But now, he is notifying parents that the school will be able to provide services.

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