Plan for Continuity of Learning


Updated 05/03/2020

We are asking parents/guardians to complete the Parent Feedback Survey so that we can measure how we are meeting student needs during COVID-19.

Implementing IEP’s During School Closure

IEP Provisions and Team Meetings

During this time of school closures across the country and state, The Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) will continue to provide educational and related services through a variety of delivery methods and modes.

Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) will be implemented as written whenever possible through distance education. However, changes in delivery of goals and objectives will be necessary in some cases and will be facilitated through an amendment agreement between MSB’s educational team and the parent or guardian. The amendment agreement will be documented in the IEP in accordance with guidance from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). When schools are able to reopen and resume normal operations, the agreement will end and the IEP as written will be in place again.

Annual IEP meetings will be held through a teleconference platform that will allow for team access through video and/or phone conferencing.

MSB Process:

Teachers will lead the educational team for each student who needs amendment information to be documented in the IEP for the duration of the school closure. All changes will only be valid until schools return to normal operations.

Teachers and service providers will each review all areas of the IEP for which they have sole or shared responsibility and determine what can be realistically addressed during the period of distance learning.  The review will be inclusive of services, goals and objectives, and supplementary aids, services, program modifications and supports (SASPMS).

Proposed changes to the IEP could include structural changes to goals, objectives, services or supports or it could be postponing implementation of some goals completely until school re-opens. 

The teacher as the primary point of contact will go through the proposed temporary changes to the IEP in its entirety with the parent.  Parents will work with the teacher to determine if what is being proposed is reasonable for them to manage at home. During this time, we all have lots to manage. Parents should consider what they can reasonably implement at home given the needs of the family and other factors.  The teacher will share with other team members the results of the conversation with the parent.

In many cases, finalizing the proposal and moving from proposal to plan can be accomplished through email and informal conversations.  It is only when parents and team members cannot agree through these means that a formal team meeting is required.

Once everyone is in agreement with the plan, the teacher will notify the Principal, Assistant Principal and local school system (LSS). The Principal/Assistant Principal will document the plan in the IEP in accordance with anticipated guidance from MSDE.

If at any time during the closure you need to adjust the plan to better meet the needs of your family and child, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s teacher to discuss.

Educational Programs

  • Curriculum and IEP educational services will be delivered through a variety of platforms based on the needs of the student, his or her access to technology and ability to complete tasks with or without support.
  • Teachers from each grade level have sent home information about distance learning and will continue to do so throughout this timeframe.  This will include specific assignments, activities, resources, and information. Many of our students will need adult structure and assistance at home, based on their age and ability to work independently. Creating a dedicated space and time for learning in your family routine is highly encouraged.
  • Teachers will use a blend of non-tech, as well as asynchronous and synchronous teaching and learning. Asynchronous means teachers and students will not be online at the same time. When a synchronous class occurs, the teacher will notify families when that class will meet.  Some teachers may offer classrooms sessions through video or phone conferencing for students to see their faces or to maintain our classroom and school community.
  • Assignments, instructions and support from teachers will be delivered through a variety of delivery methods including Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, Seesaw Learning and others. The system used will depend on the needs of the students and the type of instruction being done.
  • Some teachers are creating video tutorials and instructions for students and parents to follow from home. Videos or links to the videos will be sent directly to the parent or student through email.
  • Teachers and service providers are also, to the greatest extent possible, providing print and braille materials to those that do not have access to technology. Not all items will be available immediately or at all, but we will make every effort to provide materials to students in the best mode for their learning.
  • For students whose classrooms use the Unique Learning System (ULS) teachers will be sending work packets either through the mail, in email or through the ULS online access system. This will be based on the needs of the student and his or her access to technology in the home.
  • Teachers will provide, at a minimum, educational activities in the following manner each week: elementary – one to two English/Language Arts or reading, one to two math and one content; elementary special areas – 1 lesson; secondary – one to two lessons per week per course. These will be a combination of curriculum-based instruction and instruction to address IEP goals and objectives.

Grading and Progress Monitoring

Students who typically receive a number or percentage grade will receive a grade of “Pass” or “Incomplete”. In order to earn a Pass, students are expected to participate in the course via computer, phone, and/or complete paper-based assignments with the teacher at least 50% of the scheduled times, as determined by the teacher. The student is expected to submit at least 50% of all assignments. If circumstances do not allow a student to complete or participate in their assigned courses, the student will receive an “I” (incomplete) for the 4th quarter and have the opportunity to change their grade to a Pass if they turn in the expected work load by the end of the first month of school, for the 2020-2021 school year. If the student does not complete assigned work as listed above, their grade may be changed to an “F” for the 4th quarter. Students and parents are encouraged to discuss needs and challenges with teachers as soon as they can so that a solution can be found that will help the student.

Students who typically receive a grade of Pass/Fail will continue to do so. Grading expectations will be determined by the teacher in partnership with the parent/guardian.

Students and/or guardians should reach out to the student’s case manager or an administrator, if they foresee any challenges in being able to participate in courses or fulfill the assignments.

Related Services

  • Tele-therapy will be provided through Google Meets, a HIPPA-secure platform that allows for video and/or audio interaction between therapist and student. 
  • Related service activities not requiring a HIPPA-secure platform may be provided in a variety of formats, based on the needs of the student, his or her access to technology and his/her ability to complete tasks with or without support.
  • To the extent possible and to the extent necessary for the student to access his/her distance education program, related service objectives will be implemented as stated in the IEP
  • To the extent possible and to the extent necessary for the student to access his/her distance education program, related services will be implemented with the frequency and duration indicated in the IEP.
  • In some cases, IEP services may be delivered to students indirectly, that is, the related service provider may provide training to the parent versus working directly with the student. 
  • Changes to the IEP, including direct to indirect, adjustments to goals, objectives, frequency and/or duration will be made through agreement with the parent and reflected in the IEP Prior Written Notice (PWN).
  • In situations where related services cannot be provided as indicated in the IEP, service providers will provide the student/family with activities, tasks, and/or strategies that support the student’s continued development in indicated areas.  In some situations, this may include providing instruction in other areas of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) in an effort to continue providing the student with instruction and resources related to his/her independence
  • Support to families may be in the form of phone contact, video demonstration/observation, print/braille packets, and/or email.
  • Some related services will be integrated and presented within the context of the educational program; e.g., seating strategies, use of adapted equipment, and communication systems may be facilitated by the teacher in the context of the educational program rather than through an independent session with a therapist. To the extent possible and to the extent it is useful for the student, equipment and devices necessary for students to access their educational program will be sent home to students/families.

Social Work and Psychology Support

  • Support phone line (410.444.5000, ext 1249)
  • Messages left on this number will be returned by a social worker or psychologist within 24 to 48 hours.  

Family and Community Support

  • Facebook groups
    • Parent group – parent support groups, provision of resources, informal opportunities for parents to connect
    • Student group – In addition to the provision of a site for informal student connection, Recreation and Activity Specialists will lead weekly on-line social opportunities for students

Residential-based Services

  • Residential staff will work with the teacher/case manager to determine methods for providing support/ information to students/families.  This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
    • Provision of task analyses, strategies for implementing residential objectives at home
    • Contact with students/families at least once a week to answer questions/problem-solve issues related to implementing the students’ residential objectives at home.
  • Weekly resources in the area of living skills will be offered to families through a variety of formats, e.g., email, print/braille packets, video demonstrations/observations, on-line resources.
  • Given the nature of residential services, goals/objectives may need to be provided indirectly through training and consult with the parents/family. 
  • Change from direct to indirect service will be amended in the IEP as identified in the PWN

Outreach Services

Non-contractual Services

Outreach staff continue to be available to offer consultative services to support local systems in IEP implementation and parents.  This can include:

  • Individual consultation by videoconferencing or phone conferencing.
  • Scheduled open Q&A sessions to support LSS with delivering distance learning to students
  • Scheduled open Q&A sessions for parents around promoting skills at home

Tools and Resources

Google Classroom

Google Classroom makes teaching more productive and meaningful by streamlining assignments, boosting collaboration, and fostering communication. Educators can create classes, distribute assignments, send feedback, and see everything in one place. Classroom also seamlessly integrates with other Google tools like Google Docs and Drive. You can also access this Quick start guide for tips to get your classroom set.

Google Meet

Google Meet is a video conferencing app. It is the business-oriented version of Google’s Hangouts platform and is suitable for businesses of all sizes. The solution enables users to make video calls with up to 30 users per high-definition video meeting. To get started, go to the Google Meet support page.

Google Hangouts

Use Hangouts to keep in touch. Message friends start free video or voice calls, and hop on a conversation with one person or a group.

  • Include all your friends with group chats for up to 150 people.
  • Say more with photos, videos, maps, emoji, stickers, and animated GIFs. Turn any conversation into a free group video call with up to 10 friends.
  • Keep in touch with friends across Android, iOS, and the web, and sync chats across all your devices.
  • Message friends anytime, even if they’re offline.
  • Snooze your notifications so you can respond later.
  • See what you chatted about in the past, including shared photos and your video call history.
  • Keep a record of any conversation for just a short period of time by turning history off.
  • Connect your Google Voice account to make calls, send and receive

Google Voice

With Google Voice, you get a free phone number for calls, text messages, and voicemail. You can use the apps on smartphones and computers, and you can link your number to any mobile or landline number.

Office 365

Students and educators at eligible institutions can sign up for Office 365 Education for free, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and now Microsoft Teams, plus additional classroom tools. All you need is a valid school email address. It’s not a trial – so get started today.

Zoom

Video and phone conferencing with free or paid account options. Currently, Zoom is waiving the 40-minute time limit on free account meetings.

FreeConferenceCall.com

Free teleconferencing, video conferencing, and screen sharing with recording capability.

Webex

Video and phone conferencing with free or paid account options.

Skype

Video and phone conferencing with free or paid account options.

Remind

Texting and two-way messaging app for phone and PC. Allows communication with parents and students without sharing personal phone number. Remind will also translate messages into a variety of languages. 

Free wifi

As the country deals with the effects of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), Comcast is taking immediate steps to help connect more low-income families to the Internet at home. Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, new Internet Essentials customers will receive two free months of Internet service. We are also increasing the speed of the program to 25 Mbps downloads, and 3 Mbps uploads for all new and existing customers.

After your first two free months expire, you can either cancel the service (which you can do at any time) or keep it as a regular paying Internet Essentials customer. You will receive an easy to use self-install-kit that includes a cable modem (to receive service at your home) with a WiFi router (to connect your devices without wires). There is no term contract or credit check and no shipping fee for equipment.

Seesaw

Student-driven digital portfolios and remote learning.  Early Learning program will be using Seesaw for instruction.

ClassDojo

ClassDojo helps you instantly communicate and engage with all families and students, so you can keep building those relationships while school is closed.

Edmodo

Distance Learning Toolkit

As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread and impact school communities, we want to do what we can to help. Teachers, students, and parents can use Edmodo to communicate and continue education—always for free—even when in-person learning isn’t possible.

Flipgrid

Online meeting space for teachers and students to create video and text that can be shared with classes, schools or communities.

Newsela

Newsela is offering free access to all content during school closures.

Newsela is a data base of current events stories tailor-made for classroom use. Indexed by broad theme (e.g. War and Peace, Arts, Science, Health, Law, Money), stories are both student-friendly and can be accessed in different formats by reading level. Use Newsela to differentiate nonfiction reading. Newspaper writers rewrite a story four times for a total of five Lexile levels per story. All articles have embedded, Common Core aligned quizzes that conform to the reading levels for checking comprehension. An account is required to use Newsela, both for teachers and for students, but students sign up using a teacher or parent provided code rather than an email address. Teachers can create classes and assign reading-level specific articles to individual students or download printable PDF copies of the article in any of its reading-level versions. There is an upgraded fee-based Pro Version which allows teachers or administrators to track reading progress and students to take constructed response writing assessments, but many of the features are free and there is no outside advertising.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. We’ve also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content.

ObjectiveEd

We are providing free access to our digital curriculum to schools and teachers to use with their students with vision impairments through the end of the current 2019/2020 school year.  

ObjectiveEd’s distance learning help students practice many of the Expanded Core Curriculum, with skill-building games for Orientation and Mobility, Assistive Technology and Braille Literacy.

For example, students can improve their early braille literacy skills using ObjectiveEd’s Braille Sheets, where you place a sheet of braille on an iPad, and the iPad knows what’s on that sheet, and students play a game that improves their braille skills.  ObjectiveEd won the Louis Braille Touch of Genius award for Braille Sheets, as well as awards from the American Council of the Blind.

For advanced braille literacy skills, ObjectiveEd provides Braille AI Tutor, funded by a Microsoft AI for Accessibility grant.  As a child reads from their refreshable braille display, they speak as they read.  Using speech recognition, Braille AI Tutor listens to their speech, converts it into text, and compares that text to the original sentence sent to the braille display.  If they are the same, the child has decoded and read the sentence correctly.  This enables a child to practice their braille literacy remotely, between sessions with their itinerant teacher.

ObjectiveEd’s Orientation and Mobility games include building directionality skills, wayfinding skills, audio location and timing skills, sequencing, categorization, identification and memory.

Lakeshore Learning

Free resources from Lakeshore Learning.

ReadTheory

Improve your students’ Reading Comprehension. It’s free.

Personalized reading comprehension exercises for
K-12 and ESL students.

Paths to Literacy

Coping with school closures due to COVID-19. Lots of resources for online instruction and activities for students at home.

This is a frightening time for people throughout the world as the COVID-19 turns our routine lives inside out.  There is uncertainty for ourselves and our loved ones, and we are caught without having had time to get services in place for children with visual impairments. Fortunately, teachers, Orientation and Mobility specialists, parents, and others are rising to the occasion to share ideas and resources to help us all get through this!

National Homework Hotline for Blind/Visually Impaired Students

Homework telephone hotline for blind/vision impaired students in grades K-12 experiencing emergency school closures due to COVID-19.

VI Distance Learning Ideas

A list of distance learning ideas compiled by a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments.

Hadley Institute Discussion Groups

A variety of regular discussion groups that can be accessed free of charge by phone or computer

Virtual Book Club for Kids

Weekly theme, with a featured book that you and your toddler/preschooler/kindergarten can share plus 5 simple activities that are easy to do at home.

Free Family Dinner Book Club

Share a great story, great art, great conversation and great food each month. A variety of picture books and chapter books chosen for your enjoyment. The project is perfect for children ages 4-8, but can easily be adapted for younger and older children.

PBLWorks

Online resource for Project-based Learning

Corbett Harrison

Free writing lessons and resources for writing teachers

Scholastic

Free remote teaching resources for K-12

PBSKids

Educational games and videos from PBS Kids.

Virtual Expanded Core Education Learning (ExCEL) Academy for Students with Visual Impairments

In this time of need, if you are looking for ways to provide virtual services or activities for your student or child who is visually impaired, please join us for the launch of free nationwide programming. We hope to offer engaging lessons for students with a variety of abilities. We also hope to model ways that online learning could be used for services. We understand that children’s needs are unique and that lessons may not apply for all kids, but we are dedicated to working out a plan to provide as much as we can. A schedule will be coming out shortly with a list of instructors’ names and topics. 

Teaching Students with Visual Impairments Guide to Online Instruction

We are in an unprecedented time in our lives where many schools are closing or moving to online instruction. To support you as you transition into this new means of providing instruction, I have put together this page to provide you with strategies and resources. As I discover resources and develop activities, I will continue to share them with you.

Teaching Special Education Online During COVID-19

Webinar presented by CEC and associated tools and resources. The linked PDF gives an extensive list of tools and options for student, parent and teacher engagement.

Parent-Created Schedule for Home-Based School Activities

From Paths to Literacy

Scholastic Learn At Home

Even when schools are closed, you can keep the learning going with these special cross-curricular journeys. Every day includes four separate learning experiences, each built around a thrilling, meaningful story or video. Kids can do them on their own, with their families, or with their teachers. Just find your grade level and let the learning begin!

Story and Song Videos for Students with CVI

Short story and song videos with visual modifications for students with CVI.

Dynamic Learning Maps At-Home Learning Resources

With an increased demand for resources to use in at-home learning settings, the Dynamic Learning Maps® (DLM) Consortium offers the following list of resources and ideas on using them. These suggestions are offered in appreciation for the work that our teachers do every day to assure that their students with significant cognitive disabilities are engaged, focused, and learning.

Tar Heel Reader

Tar Heel Reader is an online collection of free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a range of topics. Each book can be read using built-in speech synthesis and accessed using multiple interfaces including touch screens, switches (1-3), and eye-gaze. Read books without registering. To write books, request an access code at tarheelreader@cs.unc.edu.

Tar Heel Shared Reader

Tar Heel Shared Reader uses books from the Tar Heel Reader library and includes on-screen communication supports. Read books without registering. To add comments to books, request an access code at tarheelreader@cs.unc.edu. To learn more about using Tar Heel Shared Reader during shared reading, check out http://sharedreader.org.

Shared Reading Vignettes

Grade 3 Shared Reading Vignette My Father’s Dragon Unit“Wild Island”

Grade 4 Shared Reading Vignette The Birchbark House Unit“Omakayas”

Grade 5 Shared Reading Vignette The Secret Garden“Families”

Grade 7 Shared Reading Vignette Hatchett“Moose”

Grade 9-10 Shared Reading Vignette The White Heron“Making a Dress”

Grade 11-12 Shared Reading Vignette To Kill a Mockingbird“Dad Loved the Farm”

These vignettes describe what a shared reading interaction might look like between an adult and a student with significant cognitive disabilities. These vignettes are especially helpful to those trying to engage in shared reading with children/students who have limited means of communication.

DLM Familiar Texts

DLM alternate assessments use specific “familiar texts.” These books include fictional stories and informational text. The books are organized by grade level. They can be read in Tar Heel Reader or Tar Heel Shared Reader if a student needs communication support.

Science Instructional Activities

These science activities support teachers who are using DLM science Essential Elements during instruction. Model activities for each grade band (elementary, middle, and high school) are included and can be adapted for use at home.

Storyline Online

Storyline Online streams videos featuring famous actors reading children’s books. Children can see the book pages and read along with these award-winning books. Children of all ages and their parents will find new books to love and old favorites on this site.

Precursor Essential Element Descriptions

This document lists Essential Elements with descriptions of the connection between Initial and Distal Precursors for both mathematics and ELA; includes links to helpful instructional suggestions and tools including the familiar texts listed above.

Project Core

This site provides communication supports for students as well as training and resources for adults. Project Core features a set of 36 core vocabulary words that reflect the DLM First 40, which are highlighted throughout the DLM system. This resource will be especially helpful to families and teams supporting students who are home without a means of communication and interaction.

Writing Supports

Check out these resources to support writing with an alternate pencil. Then, support the student in deciding what or whom to write about before selecting letters that you record. You can learn more about supporting writing in the learning modules at http://dlmpd.com.

Teacher Learning Modules for ELA, Mathematics, and Science

These modules are available in online, on-demand formats to help adults understand how to teach ELA, mathematics, and science to students with significant cognitive disabilities. They were designed primarily for teachers, but have been used with great success by parents.

Contact Information

Your primary point of contact continues to be your child’s teacher, but you may feel free to reach out to those listed below as well.  

Director of Education

Joshua Irzyk, joshuai@mdschblind.org

Director of Residential and Related Services

Maureen Bisesi, maureenb@mdschblind.org

Early Learning Coordinator/Principal

Karen Frank, karenf@mdschblind.org

Principal, Autism Blind and Functional Academic Programs

Carol Seckington, carols@mdschblind.org

Principal, General Academic Program

Nicholas Pagani, nicholasp@mdschblind.org

Principal, Multiple Disabilities Program

Phyllis Simmons, phyllis@mdschblind.org

Director of Statewide Outreach Services

Ruth Ann Hynson, ruthh@mdschblind.org