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Parents worried over Parkway Schools special education plan

Either go to in-person preschool or Parkway kids receive no services this fall

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — School districts are busy trying to formulate a plan for the fall 2020 school year. With COVID-19 cases on the rise in St. Louis County, administrators are trying to work out safe options for students.

For most school-age children, virtual is an option for parents worried about virus transmission in a physical classroom. But it seems that parents with kids at Parkway Early Child Development Center do not have a choice. 

"Right now, we either need to send him to the classroom four days a week or receive no services," Parkway preschool parent Corey Barenbrugge tells 5 On Your Side.

The Barenbrugge's predicament is one echoed by others within the Parkway Early Childhood Development parent community. Parents are worried about putting their families at risk by having a child attend in-person classes. 

"Right now we're most comfortable with being at home," Barenbrugge explains, "My older son has has expressed that he would like to be at home right now. He is scared to go into a classroom where he doesn't know if the virus is there. It's a really scary thing for a 6-year-old to grapple with."

Barenbrugge's older son is in elementary school and is able to get services virtually, but his preschooler is not. 

"There seems a need to be a middle ground," Barenbrugge told 5 On Your Side, "We would like to see leadership step up to provide that middle ground and to have a conversation about where that middle ground exists."

Barenbrugge, as well as other parents 5 On Your Side spoke with Thursday, want to have the option for their children to receive services without the group classroom component. Barenbrugge is comfortable with one-on-one therapy services like Speech-Language Pathology, but that is not an option at Parkway without attending group classes. 

Parkway Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Greg Mathison, says his classrooms are safe. "We're able to have our class sizes in the Early Childhood Center much smaller than we do for the school age kids," Mathison explains, "We believe we can provide a safe environment as well as provide for the specific needs for the kids."

Mathison added that virtual learning is just not an option for preschool-age children. 

Because the Parkway School District shares responsibilities with the Special School District, parent's 5 On Your Side spoke with say their concerns are getting tossed back and forth.

The Special School District told 5 On Your Side they are mirroring the programs set by the individual school districts for the upcoming school year. 

Mathison says if parents have an issue with the plans in place to bring them "up the ladder" by first speaking with a teacher or case manager and then to the local area coordinator on up.

The matter is complicated further because schools are only required to offer services for K-12, not for preschool.

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