Read the story below, via Cromwell Life:
When one runs a school that provides year-round instruction and support for special needs children and young adults, you can’t shut the place down for long. Not even when there is a virus pandemic. So after nearly three months with its doors closed Ädelbrook reopened in early July with numerous new safety protocols and procedures to keep everyone safe.
Ädelbrook is based in Cromwell and operates special education schools in this town as well as Middletown, East Hartford and Manchester. School resumed July 6 with a blended learning model.
After four months of teaching through Zoom, Teams and Google Classrooms, teachers are back instructing their students in the classroom. Ädelbrook schools follow a regular school year schedule with an added seven-week summer program.
Following strict guidelines and adapted schedules, students are in school on a rotating basis Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Remote learning is held every Wednesday to allow for a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the buildings.
Teachers and staff are creatively using outside space, teaching students about universal precautions and social distancing, getting them comfortable wearing masks and taking other steps to protect the safety of the community.
“The students and staff were excited to see each other, did well with their modified routines, and overall there were lots of smiles under the masks,” Jackie Peck said.
She is the program director of the Ädelbrook Transitional Academy in Middletown.
“Our students in Manchester are so happy to socialize with one another again. One of the students upon entering the school building said ‘I’m so happy to see these walls again. I love the color of these walls.’
“We have students in the classroom and at the same time other students are participating through remote learning using video and web-based platforms,” she added.
“Teachers are able to engage all students with group lessons including activities such as a Jeopardy math game, cooking and social and emotional games.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives and has left a mark on our educational programs in Connecticut. Ädelbrook quickly evolved using the creativity, resourcefulness and dedication of our staff members to maintain quality programming for our students,” Dr. Dale Hoyt, vice president for education, said. “A perfect example is Ädelbrook’s educational videos on YouTube. The videos were created by members of the staff to guide students through visual learning. We will continue this practice of publishing videos as more students return to the classrooms in the fall,” Hoyt added.
President and CEO Alyssa Goduti talked about all of the challenges the school has faced since COVID-19 arrived in Connecticut in early March. Staff members now wear cough masks and face shields and have access to plenty of hand sanitizer and towels.
Everyone who enters one of its buildings needs to sign in and complete a survey.
“We have 35 youth who live on campus” in Cromwell as well as extension and group homes elsewhere, she said.
Ädelbrook is responsible for serving 75 residential clients as well as another 175 in its schools.
“We opened our schools for the extended school year on July 6. We shifted to online learning in March. We did a lot of interactive work with them,” Goduti said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep these buildings as isolated and safe as possible. Families were desperate.”
All efforts were made to keep clients connected with therapists and behavioral staff. There was ongoing communication between Ädelbrook and its clients and their families, she added.
“For people with autism, routine and structure is really important,” she said. “Our staff has just been incredible.”
The residential clients never left the campus, even during the shutdown. Ädelbrook created stronger partnerships with the local health department and state funders. People stepped up to support the school.
“We had residents who were hand sewing masks for us,” Goduti said. “Collaboration and partnership has been essential … the length of time makes it a unique challenge.”
Everyone has their temperature checked before they are allowed to enter any of the buildings. Some of the clients have sensory issues so accommodations have to be made for them because they cannot wear masks.
She said social distancing is difficult but they are doing the best they can. Outdoor space is also being utilized. Visitors were prohibited for a while. The whole emphasis is on keeping everyone engaged, positive and healthy.
“We’ve got visual cues, we’ve got X’s on the floors,” Goduti said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep these buildings as isolated and safe as possible. Families were desperate.”
There have been countless Zoom conferences in an effort to keep everyone informed and connected. They simply cannot operate as before until the virus further subsides.
“We’re not open every day of the week and 24 percent to 50 percent of capacity each day. It’s a whole different world,” she said. “Many of our kids have one-to-one staffing.”
That makes it easier to customize the curriculum to fit each individual need. Those who receive their services at home needed to make changes that included telehealth calls or meeting outdoors around the picnic table.
As much as Ädelbrook needed to work with its clients, she said it also needed to do a great deal of work with parents and guardians to help everyone through these trying times.
“It forced us to do some really neat things that we have wanted to do for a long time,” Goduti said.
For example, they created their own YouTube channel and added new video and computer technology. Staff also learned the importance of trying new things and making quick decisions.
“I’ve seen tremendous creativity and out-of-the-box thinking … our staff has really stepped up,” she said.
Ädelbrook Behavioral and Developmental Services was founded as an orphanage in 1900 by the Swedish Evangelical Covenant Church. Its mission of providing hope and healing for children and their families has not changed in the past 120 years.
Today Ädelbrook serves 300 children and young adults with autism and other behavioral and developmental challenges, and their families, through a range of educational, residential, in-home and community-based programming. It supports children from more than 50 school districts throughout the state and from communities across the country.
It offers state-of-the-art, wrap-around residential treatment both on campus and in the community. The educational continuum serves neuro-diverse students ages 3-21.
Students attending the transitional academies for both functional academics and vocational experience have the opportunity to work at its educational retail store, The Bark-ery, where they make, package and sell dog treats and other related items from local vendors.