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Special Education Students Often Higher-Risk for COVID-19

photo of empty classroom
Special education students often have underlying health concerns, putting them at higher risk in face to face classes.

School districts across the region are working to start the school year safely amid rising numbers of COVID-19.

Summit County Public Health this week recommended schools conduct the first 9 weeks of classes online. But the health department acknowledged that in-person classes might still be needed for students with disabilities who might require greater supports.

That population is less than 5 percent of the district’s student body, according to Akron Public Schools Director of Special Education Tammy Brady.

And the regression those students might experience through remote learning is minimal compared with the risk posed by meeting in person - for students and teachers.

“These are students that often have underlying health conditions, least of which might be asthma, which asthma can be very serious,” Brady said. “It becomes very serious if someone does get Covid. But many of our students, they might have heart defects… they have a multitude of underlying health concerns.”

The majority of students in special education participate mostly in general education classes, she said. Intervention specialists have put extra supports in place for them, Brady said, including frequent check-ins through Google Meets.

Jennifer Conn joined WKSU in February 2019 as Akron reporter.