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More PPE is available to paraprofessionals in some situations 

Granite State News Collaborative
Published: 9/15/2020 10:42:21 AM

Paraprofessionals are relying on personal protective equipment in order to safely do their jobs.

While addressing the various needs their students have, paraprofessionals, or paras, often work in close proximity to their students but, in the age of social distancing, these staff members now have to adjust to the new norms that come with educating amidst a pandemic.

“Their role has always been critical for us and is even more critical in this particular situation,” said Franklin Superintendent Daniel LeGallo.

Bedford Superintendent Michael Fournier acknowledges the role paras play in the classroom has changed going into this school year. Class sizes are now smaller and paras are toggling between online and in-person support for students while being mindful of the social distancing.

Fournier said the district is providing all the PPE required for paraprofessionals and students who would work closely together. Some students are learning remotely, so those connections are being made via a computer screen.

Fournier said when a paraprofessional has to get within 6 feet of their student it’s for a short period of time and both will be wearing masks. Fournier added that paras do their best to keep their distance while providing assistance.

“I think the upside to something like this is it helps to foster independence and so support looks a little different, but it allows for the paraprofessional to go in, provide a little support in a short period of time and then back away and allow the student to sort of have a gradual release of responsibility,” Fournier said.

For those students who work more closely with their paraprofessionals, such as those who are nonverbal or nonambulatory, Fournier said those students and paras are using more PPE and are adhering to precautions.

Similarly, the Franklin School District also offers PPE such as gowns, gloves and face shields for paras working with students in closer proximity. LeGallo said that the students in these situations would also use plexiglass shields.

Deborah Payne, Assistant Superintendent for Business Operations in the Salem School District said that the district does have some special education programs where students might have additional needs and that in those spaces there are gowns available for any staff member who is working in that space. Additional equipment, such as gloves and goggles, is also available to staff.

However, Payne said it is not just all about the items available but also about the conversation. Payne said that the district has put in place an initiative called “Wellness Wednesdays” where students take a survey to give teachers and administrators a sense of how they’re feeling about being in school. If students have any concerns, there is extra time for processing them with the students.

“We’re focusing on social-emotional learning, making sure students and staff really are ready,” Payne said. “There was a long gap there in terms of everyone being in the classroom. People have a lot of concern or fears coming back so we wanted to make sure everyone was feeling safe.”

 

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.




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