Experts say unknowns about school year can cause mental health challenges

One parent said his biggest concern is how schools are going to work with students with special needs

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Experts say confusion and anxiety over the upcoming school year is causing mental health issues for students.

Javier Figueroa said his 9-year-old son, Jarlier, attends school in the Orange County Public Schools district.

“They have wonderful teachers for students with special needs and he loves that school,” Figueroa said.

But he said, it’s halfway through July, and he hasn’t heard the specifics on how the district plans to keep students, like Jarlier, safe.

For example, he said one of his concerns is regarding mask wearing. He said it would be difficult for Jarlier to wear a mask for hours.

Figueroa said his biggest concern is how schools are going to work with students with special needs, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On top of keeping his son safe, for his son's own health, he said there's an added layer to the concern. "I am a COPD patient; I only have one lung left," said Figueroa.

He tells New's 6 he was one of the many parents who called in during public comment at the school board meeting on Tuesday. He said he called to ask the school about what plans are in place for students with special needs.

News 6 asked Orange County Public Schools about the plans as well, and OCPS shared their optional innovative reopening plan, which can be found on the district's website.

They list assurances in the plan that state the district must agree to provide a full array of services that are required by law.

Those services, according to the plan, include specialized instruction for students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

The plan also states that students with disabilities will receive support in their classrooms and virtually.

OCPS also touched on PPE in the plan, stating PPE will be available for staff and must be worn by medically fragile students.

Here is a link to where the plan can be found on the district’s website.

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