ESC closing learning centers for disabled students until Jan. 11 due to COVID

The Montgomery County Educational Service Center headquarters building on Keowee Street in Dayton.
The Montgomery County Educational Service Center headquarters building on Keowee Street in Dayton.

Two of the Montgomery County Educational Service Center’s three school centers will fully close this weekend and not reopen until Jan. 11.

The centers on Kettering Boulevard in Moraine and Timber Lane in Northridge serve students with emotional disturbance and/or multiple disabilities. Superintendent Shannon Cox said a total of 265 students are served by the two sites.

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Cox said there have been few COVID-19 cases in students, but a number of school employees have been forced to quarantine, creating staffing pressure.

“When it gets to a point where we are not confident that we have enough staff to operate the school, knowing that the students have the disabilities that they have, we have to be certain that we can maintain a safe environment,” Cox said. “We have students who are medically fragile … and we need to have staff to provide appropriate supervision. This is not like a traditional school district, because of the needs with the kids.”

The ESC’s preschool center on Wilmington Pike in Kettering will stay on schedule, as Cox said it would be easier to transition those students to a remote-learning model if necessary.

The two centers that are closing were already scheduled to be closed for the full Thanksgiving week and for two weeks at Christmas. Cox said the 19 school days that will be lost for now will be tacked on to the end of the school year, which will now run through June 29.

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Cox said the learning centers are fully closing until Jan. 11, rather than moving online, because many of the students have disabilities that make remote learning very difficult.

Those ESC students who are already learning remotely are doing so after technology planning, team meetings and family meeting that wouldn’t be possible in the case of a sudden forced shutdown.

“The odds of people spending time outside of their homes (exposed to) other people in the holidays is pretty high, and we’re already having staffing issues before the holidays,” Cox said.

Cox said it could be difficult to provide all of the related services that are on a child’s individualized education plan (occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech help, mental-health services), if there are staffing problems.

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“We want to make sure we give them a full year of those services in the best manner, and that’s coming back in January and hoping that January through June is not as disrupted as it is currently,” Cox said. “Hopefully this will alleviate the burden that families felt (last spring) when they had to redo their childcare but they also had to take care of school. This way, they just take care of family needs now, and we’ll take care of school January through June.”