Teaching students not in school because of medical issues
Editor’s note: The names of a student and her mother are not used in this article to protect their privacy.
A senior at Woodford County High School would not be graduating with her classmates May 25 if she hadn’t received home/hospital instruction for most of her academic life, her mom says. A chronic illness has made it difficult for the student to be in school on a consistent basis since kindergarten. Whenever a medical issue arises that prevents her from being in school, she’s eligible to receive home/hospital instruction. Not only does she have a 3.2 grade-point average, her mom said she’s been accepted at Kentucky State University where she will continue her education in the fall. The student’s mom credits homebound teachers Marti Day and Jeanne Halter for their willingness to work around her family’s schedule while also keeping up with her daughter’s academic needs. “When they come in (our) house,” said the mom, “they treat her like any other student.” The home/hospital teachers work closely with teachers in the schools to ensure their students are keeping up with their schoolwork. They are also responsible for making sure their students complete state-required and other tests. Sometimes, they read test questions to special needs students, if that’s a modification in their Individual Education Plan (IEP). “They’re just amazing,” said the mom of the WCHS senior. “… I don’t think my daughter would be graduating this year and have the college opportunity already set up if it wasn’t for those ladies.” Students in Kentucky public schools are eligible to receive educational services via home/hospital instruction for a variety of medical reasons, said Garet Wells, director of staff/student services in Woodford County schools. He said the state-required education services (a minimum of two one-hour visits every five days) are most often provided in the home, but sometimes occur in a hospital or a neutral location such as the public library. “You have to kind of figure out how your student’s going to work the best,” said Day. “Some like to have some activity around. Some don’t need activity around. They get too distracted.” Students receive home/hospital instruction services for long periods of time if they’re dealing with chronic medical issues. Other students receive the services on a short-term basis while recovering from broken bones and surgeries, Wells said. Students are not eligible for home/hospital services unless they are going to miss school for more than five consecutive days under state law, he explained. A special needs student’s IEP determines the services they need and receive. Because many of their students have fallen behind due to a medical issue, it’s up to Day and Halter to provide support so they can catch up with their classmates. They are able to get a lot of instructional support through technology with their Chromebooks, which allow them to access materials just like a student in class does, Day said. Halter had a home/hospital teacher while in the second grade, but said that experience did not play a part in what she’s doing now. “I have always enjoyed just working with students. And the idea of working one-on-one with a student is great for me. I like that. I enjoy it,” said Halter, who’s been a home/hospital teacher for 19 years in Woodford County schools. She started that career after she retired as a classroom teacher with 28 years of experience, including stints at both Mortonsville and Southside elementary schools, she said. A former high school vocational agriculture teacher, Day said she became a home/hospital teacher in 2010. She worked as Halter’s substitute a year or two before that. Now, Day and Halter job share a position as the district’s home/hospital teacher – with hours that vary depending on student need, said Wells. “I think of it as kind of like putting a puzzle together every week,” he said of a home/hospital teacher’s work schedule. “They’re trying to figure out when they’re going to see kids, where they’re going to see kids, what courses they’re going to be covering that day. So it’s a big puzzle every week trying to make sure that we provide the appropriate educational services that our students need.” “It’s very rewarding (work) because you get to see a lot of progress when you’re working with a student,” explained Day. She and Halter said they’ve had as many as 24 students this school year. Over the course of the school year, the teachers said they’ll likely provide services to as many as 50 students – and each may respond to a different teaching style. “Sometimes she does better with a student or I do better with a student,” said Day. “They compliment each other,” confirmed Wells.