This is a Letter to the Editor submitted to WIBX in regards to the recent announcement that Rome City Schools was forced to temporarily go back to remote learning, due to a COVID-19 outbreak and a shortage of bus drivers. Schools are set to resume in-person after Columbus Day on October 12, 2021, according to the district. 

Dear Mr. Blake/ Board of Education,

I am a father of seven with six currently in Rome schools.  I have three children with IEPs which includes my autistic son currently in a 12-1-1 program.  I am a lucky grateful person in that I can take care of nearly all of my children's needs, despite what the last year and a half have thrown at us all. The exception to what I can take care of is that I rely on the special education services provided by your district to bring my special needs son to his full potential. Services like OT, PT, speech, and hands-on teaching.  My son, and almost all special needs children in your care, do not sit idle in time of no services, They regress. Regression is real, cumulative, and sets these children on paths to be less independent in adulthood.

COVID has no doubt been an unsolvable challenge for schools. There is no means to make the tough decisions and have everyone agree with you. However, you need to publicly address the concerns for the needs of your special education students.  

Throughout the last year and a half, we seem to be making the same mistakes with our special needs children no matter how often and how loudly us parents voice concern in writing or at school board meetings. And here we are again. When being notified of Rome City School’s decision to switch to remote learning through the Columbus day holiday, my first reaction was the district is short some drivers, but the playbook apparently still hasn’t been updated to prioritize special needs students. But this was no doubt a serious decision and we are only looking at a week. 

Now I am seeing conversations about busing survey questions addressing the rest of the school year and I am feeling a repeat of the same Rome City School District handling we saw during the thick of COVID issues last year. Not only are we failing to prioritize special needs children's in-person instruction, it doesn’t seem like this is a one-week problem.  The perception is you know the issues with busing aren’t simply a one-week wait to get back to in-person, but could they be something more.

My direct questions are this:

1) Are Rome City School students actually going back to school on 10/12/2021?

2) Can you please prioritize special needs students and bring them back in person asap? This was done several times last year in Rome and districts across America. 

3) Can you please update your crisis plan to put special needs students first when making decisions about large-scale remote learning?  They shouldn’t still be an afterthought a year and a half into COVID mitigation decisions. Also, consider addressing special education in-person/remote learning decisions in your communication with the public.

Respectfully,

Leonard M. Dormio, Rome, NY

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