Parent of special needs student talks about impact of Guilford County Schools re-entry plan

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Bells will be ringing at several Guilford County Schools on Thursday.

Despite the high COVID positivity rates, some parents can’t wait for their kids to get back to class.

One mom was so worried about her daughter, that she texted a school board member as they were debating what to do.

Linda Welborn, a district school board member, referenced Jennifer Thompson’s text in the meeting.

She said, “her child has been harming herself out of frustration that she cannot navigate the situation.”

Throughout Tuesday night’s meeting, school leaders continuously addressed the learning loss.

“The loss of education is horrendous at this point,” Welborn said. “We’ve got to do something.”

Thompson is the mom of a special needs student. She said, for kids like her daughter, that learning loss is even greater.

She told FOX8, her heart sank when board members considered pushing re-entry back to January.

For months, she’s struggled helping her 11th grade special needs daughter, Kelsey, navigate virtual learning.

“I was like, speak up. This can’t happen,” Thompson said.

So, she texted Welborn during the meeting, making a plea.

“We’ve added a medication. She’s scratching herself, she’s pulling her hair,” Thompson said. “Like this can’t happen.”

Kelsey is nonverbal and has struggled to participate in online classes.

“When the teacher started doing the curriculum and asking the questions, Kelsey couldn’t answer them,” Thompson said.

For weeks, she’s been working to get her daughter the help she needs.

“I’ve left voicemails for Dr. Contreras, I made emails and calls to board members and told them the struggles that my child was dealing with,” she said.

Finally, Kelsey will head through the doors at Southeast Guilford High School.

She gave her mom a thumbs up when she found out she could go back to class.

Thompson wishes other kids, like her fifth grade daughter, could head back to school now, but she believes the first round of re-entry will show that it is possible.

“Let the teachers feel confident, let them figure out how to make it work,” she said. “Let them see that yes, this is a new normal and a different setting.”

Starting Thursday, pre-K through second grade students, and other students served in self-contained Exception Children classrooms at traditional schools, will return.

District leaders say they have enough masks and cleaning supplies to keep everyone in school safe.

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