Getting Ready for a New School Year – Spring is the Time to Prepare

Author: Cathie Camley

Ministry policy requires that Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) be reviewed annually. This usually happens towards the end of the school year. It is important for parents to be involved in the annual review in my humble opinion. Not only is the IEP reviewed to identify successes and what “next steps” should be in place, it also serves as a bit of a blueprint for the fall before a new IEP is written.

For students who are transitioning to another school in the fall, this is the time to ensure that plans and preparations are made for the new school to receive your child. Ministry policy requires that transition planning be included in the IEP. If it isn’t done already, now is the time to get it done.

For students moving from elementary to middle or from middle to high school, it is usual for the receiving school specialist teacher(s) to meet with specialist staff at the feeder schools to find out which students with special needs they will be receiving in the fall and what they need to do to prepare. However, there is no guarantee that the staff who receive this information will be on staff at that school in the fall. My advice is not to rely too heavily that this information will find its way to the receiving school’s staff. When kids fall off lists…this is usually the time it happens. Take the opportunity to ask when the new school sets up meetings for parents to discuss program and service needs and start IEPs in the fall.

This is also the time to review your child’s G-4 file. All students who are registered in the district have a file that is kept at the school where the child attends. This file will be sent to the new school so you will want to ensure the information it contains is up to date and accurate. The Ministry says parents have the right to review the file and that the principal, or his or her delegate, should accompany you to “interpret” the contents. If there is information you think is inaccurate or out of date, ask for it to be removed or brought up to date. If that request is denied, you may write a letter to the principal with the accurate or more up to date information and cc a copy to the G-4 file so at least you are on record. And then there’s always an opportunity to appeal a decision not to change the contents of a file if you believe that the contents will affect your child’s health, safety or education.

Some schools will host a visiting day towards the end of the year for students who will be attending in the fall so they become familiar with their new schools. For many of our children this one day may not be enough to provide a smooth transition so ask if it can be arranged to have you child come on more than one occasion.

Many of our kids have difficulty finding their way around a large physical space. If it is at all possible see if you can find out where your child’s classes will be and practice the route between classrooms on your visit(s). Walk the grounds too to locate doors in and out and where bathrooms are. Check out the lunchroom cafeteria and menu boards too if your child has dietary concerns to see what options are available. See if the receiving school will allow you and your child a walk though just before school reopens in the fall too….just a refresher of the site.

Lockers can be challenging. Here’s a few tips that might help make things easier.Ask for a locker assignment beside a door so it will be easier to find. It’s hard to find your locker from a long row of lockers in a long hallway. Ask for a special lock for the locker. Some schools have locks with combinations that don’t require three numbers…just one. Ask if you can keep the lock over the summer so your child can practice with it. My own son carried his entire locker contents in his backpack for several months because he couldn’t manage his lock or even find his locker. An astute specialist teacher called me about his doing this. He was too embarrassed to tell me he couldn’t manage his lock.

Early in the fall, and once schedules are known, review with your child what will be needed for each day’s schedule and colour code supplies for each subject (duotangs, text books covers, etc) so that things will be easy to find and organize to take from class to class.

It does take some time for staff to become familiar with their new students and to draft new IEPs. At high school, where students have one teacher for every subject, it is more challenging for subject teachers to get to know students well. It is quite common for subject teachers not to know that some of their students have special needs – especially those with invisible disabilities. A quick visit helps as does a one page sheet you prepare that outlines essential accommodations helps to ensure there is an awareness that your child will need some support.

For students who are graduating, the Ministry requires that there be some transition planning articulated in the IEP to help you and your child learn about what is available in terms of programs, services, continued educational opportunities, employment, training, etc. .

This is far from complete, so I invite you to add to these suggestions in the comment section.

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2 thoughts on “Getting Ready for a New School Year – Spring is the Time to Prepare

  1. Such a good article Cathie. Something that was of benefit to us when transitioning to Middle School was having the locker strategically placed where the counselor could discreetly observe peer interactions. This would depend on the layout of the school, and whether the student would be pulled away from mingling in with their own grade level peers and forming early friendships.

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  2. Great insights as always, Cathie! I had a question from a parent on transitioning to high school from a home learning environment; any additional thoughts there?

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