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Spokane Public Schools students begin year with virtual learning amid COVID-19 pandemic

A new option from SPS lets parents with children who have special needs take advantage of services that the IEP program offers while at home.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash — Students within Spokane Public Schools will not be going back to school in-person on Monday, but they will be learning remotely. 

The last time KREM spoke with Deena Hayes, she had a decision to make for her son, Dillon. Spokane Public Schools had only offered virtual learning or potentially in person for kids with special needs. 

"Doing the news story it helped us to find a better option for Dillon, an option we didn't know was available," she said. "There is a third option for parents who don't want to take advantage of Spokane Virtual Learning because SVL really does have a lack of services for kids like Dillon." 

This new option lets parents with children who have special needs take advantage of services that the IEP program offers while at home.

"We would still have access to physical and speech therapy, we could go into the school for that or we could take advantage of that online " she said. "As well as the ability to go into the school for testing."

RELATED: 'This is an unfair choice': Mother refuses Spokane Public Schools' fall learning deadline

The family recently found Dillon has some visual difficulties that are not being accommodated at school and he needs testing for them, he said. 

Hayes was able to make an informed decision, but mother Tricia Walkup did not have to make hers. SPS went fully virtual for children without special needs. 

Her daughter Annabelle is going into second grade and did not like last spring's virtual learning. But the school district says it's different this time. 

Credit: Morgan Trau
Walkup Family

"Now where they have it set up where they'll have class times online during the day, and she'll be getting kind of a classroom environment," she said. "I am hoping, hoping hoping that that will help her to be more focused and it will make it a more enjoyable process."

During the pandemic, health officials have been urging to go outside and get fresh air. 

With all of the residual smoke from eastern Washington's wildfires, the air quality has dropped to hazardous. This poses a safety concern for parents, especially for Walkup and Hayes.

"She's allergic to dust mites, so that's something that we deal with year round anyway and they're doing construction right by our house, and then you add smoke to it," Walkup said. "Unless you have to go outside for something, we're staying inside as much as possible."

Hayes' son has spastic cerebral palsy and other conditions that make him severely immunocompromised.

"He definitely has a compromised immune system, as well as having spastic quadriplegia CP, so his lungs don't expand as much as they should," Hayes said. "He's at a very high risk of complications because his lung capacity is only about half of what it should be."