SAN ANTONIO — Shaun Burks starts seventh grade at Stevenson Middle next week. Due to the pandemic, his mother, Brandy, decided it would be best to keep him online all year.
"They need that hands-on learning, I agree 100%," Brandy said. "But the risk is not worth it."
Shaun has autism. He's in a special education class where he can get more one-on-one attention, but working from home makes that a little harder.
Brandy is prepared to pick up the slack and help her son where she can.
"There are some benefits to being in school that they're missing," Brandy said. "The biggest challenge is the social aspect of it; he has a very emotional tie to his teacher as well as to his classmates."
Shaun's teacher, Cindy Glover, isn't letting the distance stop her from connecting with her students.
Glover sent Shaun a personalized welcome video. She also dropped off a few treats, a stuffed animal and a sign with his name on it at his house.
Brandy was touched. She said these small acts of kindness make a big difference for her son. Glover has also reached out to her to personally explain how things will work this year.
"She's already called me twice on the phone. I've gotten an email. We're doing everything we can to make sure that, no matter what, we're unified for them," Brandy said. "On Friday, she and I are going to be on the phone again so she can tell me everything I need to do on the first day."
"These are our students who benefit from in-person instruction the most," Glover added. "We're ready for virtual or in-person because we miss our kids!"
The instructor said about half of her students will return to campus when they're able to. She'll be able to handle the virtual and in-person side of her classroom with help from a teaching assistant.
"Part of it will be recorded for our students at home," Glover said. "Then, (for) part of it, we'll be able to switch out to synchronously teaching live."
She explained that many students rely on tools and other materials to comprehend some of her lessons. She plans to drop them off to her students as needed so they're not left out. She'll also check in with parents at least once a week and, every now and then, she'll stop by for a special visit.
"Home visits and surprises to keep them going will probably be once a month," Glover said. "You'll do anything to support your students!"
This year will be a challenge for everyone, but this extra level of care gives Brandy confidence.
"I know that they have the support, not only from myself and my husband, but from their teachers," she said. "And if anything, it's going to be a learning experience for them. Something they can talk about someday."