SYCAMORE - Some parents expressed their displeasure with the first eight days of Sycamore's remote learning on Tuesday at the District 427 school board meeting.
Chris Fioretto, Sycamore parent and assistant fire chief in Cortland, said his two students - a third-grader and a junior in high school - have had issues both technical and social-emotional.
"There's a lot of parental guidance needed," Fioretto said. "One day a week my daughter (the junior) has to help out with the younger one. There's a lot of guidance my son needs. And my daughter is getting headaches from sitting in front of the screen."
Julia Dwyer then spoke to the special needs program, saying the district is "utterly failing" special needs children.
She said her four-year-old son, who she said is non-verbal autistic, isn't being served.
"I'm a litigation paralegal," Dwyer said. "I don't have the background to teach but my son is being offered an education that I receive and have to turn around to get to him. I know the teachers are doing the best they can. The administration, when I speak to them, they ask what I need. 'When you need something, just let us know.' Well, I don't know what I need. ... After seven months, we're in no better position than March."
Others also expressed that they felt they weren't being heard by the board.
After four parents conveyed their dismay, at times in tears, Assistant Superintendent Nick Reineck presented more than three dozen teachers and administrators with medals for their work in preparing for the first week of the year. The school board back in August voted to give the teachers an extra week to prepare, pushing the start date from Aug. 24 to Aug. 31.
Following the public comments, Superintendent Steve Wilder gave his presentation on the first week of remote learning, saying it exceeded expectations. He did address issues, but none specifically brought up by the parents.
Wilder said students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and the district's plan for them, will be addressed at the next meeting on Sept. 22.
"I think the comments made tonight were very valid," Wilder said.
As parents plead for a return to some level of in-person learning, Wilder said that the district did start teaching some special-needs students in person on Tuesday, a week after regular classes began.
Wilder didn't mention how many students were in-person Tuesday, but Nicole Stuckert, chief school business official, said the district provided transportation to 17 students with special needs for in-person school.
Board President Jim Dombek asked Wilder about both tech issues and loneliness students might be experiencing.
Wilder said tech issues can be addressed by calling the school or sending an email to the school's tech department. As for the social-emotional aspect, he said counselors are available and teachers are constantly checking in with students.
He said the first two weeks will be focused more on reconnecting more than learning.
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