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Special education programs prepare for in-person services this summer

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VESTAL (WBNG) -- While it's still uncertain if students will be returning to school in the fall, some programs were given the green light for the summer.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state Department of Education are allowing in-person special education services this summer.

The Institute for Child Development, or ICD, is getting ready to open its doors.

"Luckily, the Governor's office had released the approval for us to be able to reopen, but the state Education Department also had to vet some of the approvals along with DOH, so those just came through on the weekend," said Director of Children's Unit for Treatment and Evaluation Rachel Cavalari.

Starting July 6, ICD, along with other special education programs in the state, will have some students back in the classroom for its summer term.

"Bringing them back and sort of getting them used to a routine sometimes will help those kids feel like there's a sense of predictability, like it does for any child," said Cavalari.

School leaders say it's important for students and their families to have this option after being out of the building for so long.

"If you have a child who needs that level of support who then is, even though we're offering virtual services, is removed from the intensity that they're used to receiving, it's going to create a situation where it might cause regression or it's going to prevent growth," said Cavalari.

While in-person instruction is taking place, virtual learning will still be maintained.

"Families might have a school district who says you can go back and the family might say, 'we're comfortable with what we have, we're not under pressure to return to work, and the virtual format makes us feel a little bit better at this time.' So we keep telling all of our families, it's okay," said Cavalari.

As families are adjusting to the changes, ICD is too.

The school is preparing to follow new guidelines regarding social distancing and PPE.

"All of our staff are going to be masked at all times when they're working with the kids. Instructional areas, even when looking around our building, you can see we have areas that are taped off, trying to give the six-foot space so that it gives visual guides for staff," said Cavalari.

Ready to keep students and staff both healthy and safe, physically and emotionally.

Annie Flaherty

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