Special needs students heading back to the classroom in Santa Rosa

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Special needs students are heading back to the classroom this week in the Santa Rosa City Schools district.

It will be a gradual reopening at first, with only 38 students going to class on Tuesday after a deal was struck between the district and teachers.

But the deal opens the door for special needs students and English-language learners to start getting focused, in-person teaching once again after getting their schooling from home with the help of parents and guardians for the last year.

“Special needs students need special help. They need extra help, they need consistent help, they need structured help, and parents can’t do that all the time. It will wear them out,” said Dr. Lynn Fox, a professor emeritus of education at SFSU and expert in special education.

She says the last year of distance learning has been a critical loss for these students.

“Each and every one of them has individualized instruction and for many of them, the socialization is almost more important than the academic performance. And so they need that interaction with other children, with adults, with a lot of stimulation and activities that are specially designed for their particular handicapping condition.”

Dr. Fox says that under normal circumstances, even school breaks can be detrimental.

“And then particularly after two months of summer sessions; so many times special needs students need additional summer school, and the law provides that for them. So I feel that as they’re planning to bring these kids back into the classroom, they also need to be planning beyond these four months that’s left in the regular school year.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state education officials gave school districts the green light to reopen for small groups of students with additional needs back in August.