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Special needs school in West Palm Beach adjusts to changes during coronavirus pandemic

Open Doorway welcoming students back in staggered schedules in August
Posted at 3:56 PM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 18:06:21-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Many private schools in South Florida are giving parents the choice for their children to return to in-class learning, digital learning, or a combination of both.

But special needs schools say there is not much of an alternative for their students.

The classroom space at Open Doorway in West Palm Beach will look a little different for K-12 students this August.

"The first thing that we had to do was reconfigure everything," said Rafael Laredo, the administrator at the middle school.

Laredo said digital learning was a disaster for the children and their parent.

"Even trying to get attendance remotely became really difficult," said Laredo.

The West Palm Beach private school provides intense learning methods for children with autism, ADHD, Asperger syndrome, and other special needs. Come August, they are welcoming back all of their students next school year in staggered schedules every day.

"These children on the spectrum need routine," said parent Allison Orr. "I mean, way beyond what you can even imagine."

Orr's 17-year-old daughter is diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. Orr said when school stopped abruptly in March, her daughter suffered, not only academically, but emotionally.

"Her level of anxiety shot through the roof," said Orr.

Now with physical barriers in between desks, new air filters, and hand sanitizing stations, Laredo said the children can get back to learning in the way they excel most: in-person.

"They are getting the therapies that they need," said Laredo. "As opposed to at home, a lot of the kids are not getting OT, speech therapy, ABA therapy, psych."

Open Doorway didn't want parents to miss the opportunity to participate in an open house, so they set up several dates with staggered shifts for parents to meet their child's teachers

"By the school being able to open and have one-on-one, it's going to make a world of difference to these kids and their parents," said Orr.