'Get on the bus': 2 families call for in-person instruction this fall for students with special needs

May 22 was the last day for students in the Fulton County school system. It also marks 11 weeks Sadie Boggs has been away from much-needed face-to-face instruction.

The 17-year-old from Milton has autism and a chromosomal abnormality. Her mom Laura hopes special needs students can return to school in the fall.

“She normally pops out of bed every morning and says ‘Get on the bus. Get on the bus.’ She’s very happy to go to school," said Laura Boggs, Sadie's mom. "Now, she’s waking up and saying, ‘Get on the bus? Not today.’ And then she says, ‘Sad, I’m so sad.’ She cries a lot.”

In-person classes provide interaction, structure and routine. Disrupting that is difficult for children like Sadie.

“We try to explain stopping the spread and staying healthy, but she just wants to go to school," Boggs said. "We gave the virtual learning a shot, but Sadie did not understand that her teacher wasn’t in the room. She’s just on a screen.”

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Sadie Boggs (Laura Boggs)

Sadie’s best friend Jack also has had a tough time. He has severe autism and is nonverbal.

“He just could not understand why he was doing schoolwork at home," said Lisa Lamb, Jack's mom. "The behaviors that we’ve seen come out of him that I haven’t seen from him since I was a little child.”

The Fulton County school board is considering all options, including complete remote learning, complete in-person instruction or a combination of the two.

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Jack Lamb (John Lamb)

At the very least, Boggs and Lamb hope schools will allow special needs classes, which are already small in size, to resume in person.

“It is imperative really that he goes back to school in some sort of fashion because he just does not understand this at all,” Lamb said.

The Fulton County School Board will discuss its plans for the upcoming school year on June 9.

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