CHANDLER, AZ — "We are doing the best that we can," says teacher Elsie Niklason, who has taught pre-school to special needs students for 26 years.
"This is what I know, this is where I want to be and I'm glad kids are back," says Niklason, as she is teaching two students in her classroom. She would usually be bringing 12 to 15 kids into her classroom for instruction, but COVID-19 has forced the numbers down.
"Normally they come four days a week, two-and-a-half hours a day, now and they are coming two days for two-and-a-half hours a day," says Niklason.
The reduced class-size, no sharing of writing utensils, toys or paper, and the constant washing of hands are a few ways this teacher is working to keep COVID-19 out of the classroom. Both instructors are always wearing either a mask or a face shield.
"They are 3 and 4 years old and they need that social interaction so we have to find that fine line that works," she adds.
Niklason stresses the fact that those who attend in-person need services that cannot be met through a computer. Kids in this classroom are typically developmentally delayed and may receive an autism or ADHD diagnosis in the future. The interventions and skills obtained in this classroom will pave the way for a successful K-12 education.
"When you are in person, you can do things on the fly. When they are in front of a computer, it's hard to get that one-to-one touch," she adds.
Niklason says many of her kids have sensory needs that only in-person interaction can help detect and work on. In the Chandler Unified School District, roughly 5,000 students in K-12 take part in special education.