MILWAUKEE — Some families gathered in protest outside the Oak Creek/Franklin Joint School District Office Thursday night. They want their kids to be able to start the school year in person, not online. For some of them, it’s a very personal plea.
Debbie Mesick, 9, has autism and epilepsy.
“She really needs the in-school therapies that are offered,” said Debbie’s dad, Jeremy Mesick. “Those therapies we really just can’t provide at home through virtual learning.”
Initially, Mesick was relieved when the Oak Creek/Franklin Joint School District gave parents the option of letting their kids attend school in person five days a week, or virtually.
But just last week, the school board reversed course, ruling that all students will start with remote learning only, because of the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the area.
Mesick says returning to Special Education at Deerfield Elementary is best for Debbie, after seeing what happened when school needed to go entirely online in the spring, at the start of the pandemic.
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“It really took a toll on her,” he said. “The little things we’re trying to improve with her seem to be regressing.”
Lee Shultz has noticed a similar regression with her son Xander, who also has autism.
“It is really hard for us,” she said. “He’s showing more aggression at home.”
Schultz says Xander really benefits from speech therapy, socialization, and interaction at Oak Creek West Middle School.
“The district didn’t give us much time to work on this and figure out a plan,” she said. “I don’t want my son, his progress, and his individualized education plan to fall through the cracks.”
“We’re just really begging that they try to make something work for the kids that need it most,” Mesick said. “Whatever that may look like, just don’t shut us out.”
Daniel Unertl, Superintendent of the Oak Creek/Franklin Joint School District sent us this statement regarding special education programs:
“Our Pupil Services team has been working unrelentingly in planning to provide necessary services. Our team is actively working in coordination with our Special Education Parent Advisory Council to share information, answer questions, and break down both barriers to access and communication.”