Staff at Youngstown school for kids with disabilities creatively tackles remote learning

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Teachers and staff have been getting creative to keep their students on track

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The new school year has been an adjustment for everyone, including students at Leonard Kirtz School, which is holding all classes remotely.

Teachers and staff have been getting creative to keep their students on track.

The first nine weeks at Leonard Kirtz have been remote, but even virtual learning isn’t stopping these teachers from connecting with their students.

“When we’re working with students with disabilities that need more of that hands-on and that routine, the level of creativity that the teachers need to have is that much higher,” said Principal Gina Symsek.

This is Symsek’s first year as principal at Leonard Kirtz. She says the pandemic has been especially challenging for their students.

“The way they learn is so individual that trying to differentiate that for all of them and they just thrive better on that person-to-person contact,” she said.

Students have a minimum of two hours a day of live instruction, and those lessons are recorded if a student was absent. The school also has a weekly pickup for families to prepare for the following week’s lessons.

Symsek says the staff has adapted incredibly well to remote teaching. For example, with virtual physical therapy exercises kids are given.

“It’s hard, it’s challenging but it’s fun too because you can be creative and you’ve got to think outside the box a little bit,” Symsek said.

One teacher used her creativity to help students with virtual speech therapy, something Symsek says she’s thankful for to help students stay on track.

“A lot of our students are non-verbal, so not having them be immersed in that we do get concerned that any skills they have they might have regressed a little bit,” Symsek said.

Students are scheduled to transition back to in-person learning in early November. Symsek says the school is ready, decorated with their work.

“We want to make it as kid-centered as it always would be, so we want to make it theirs for when they do return,” she said.

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