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Ben Bronz Academy in West Hartford Uses Mediators, Programs to Continue Education Amid Coronavirus Shutdown

A zoom session with Ben Bronz Academy students. Submitted photo

Ben Bronz Academy in West Hartford, which serves students with a variety of learning disabilities  has found ways to go above and beyond to ensure its students continue learning while the building itself is shut down for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Submitted

Students at Ben Bronz Academy didn’t skip a beat when the state announced the closing of all schools on March 13, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Ben Bronz Academy, students learn differently due to learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADHD, Central Auditory Processing Disorder, Autism Disorders, and Executive Functioning Disorder. Students spend their time at Ben Bronz Academy remediating academic skills and learning pragmatics and organizational skills so that they can return to their public schools with the skills and strategies necessary for them to be successful in their learning.

Instruction at the school focuses on planning, problem-solving, communication, and self-advocacy. When schools were told that they would have to close, Ben Bronz staff knew just what to do.

“In this situation, we knew it would take strong teamwork and communication to help our students continue to be successful,” said Christina Lamphere, education director. “The staff, already familiar with several technology platforms, jumped into planning so that each of the students could continue to learn. The staff, families, and students continue to grow as they learn what works best in each individual case.”

As soon as the announcement to close schools was made, mediators (Ben Bronz Academy teachers) worked diligently to ensure that their students would continue to learn and meet their Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals. Lessons and activities were transferred to Google Classroom so all students could access them. The school started with a full schedule of all academic classes on March 16, the first day of the school closure.

Mediators are teaching through video conferencing with classes via platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet. Lower school classes even have the chance to attend daily story time with their classroom mediators and special guests. Older students enjoy using online software called Flipgrid to share projects with their classmates. Since mediators are available to their students from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., students have the flexibility to contact their teachers throughout the day.

“My children’s last day of school was a Friday and they started their full schedule the following Monday. Not one school day passed without their full schedules being met. Mediators have always been available. They are always troubleshooting to provide support,” a Ben Bronz Academy parent said.

Ben Bronz Academy is a state-approved, private, special education school so every student in the school has an IEP. While many schools around the state were struggling with how to provide special education services to their students, Ben Bronz Academy mediators and staff went right to work.

Ben Bronz mediators are specially trained in various special education teaching methods. They are trained to base instruction on the individual needs of the student and are very successful with their methods. Since these services are regularly tied into the classes at Ben Bronz Academy, it was a seamless transition to teaching online. Mediators were already familiar with the individual accommodations and modifications that students needed and were able to work to incorporate them into online classes.

Students who have one-on-one, fundamental remediation classes are meeting with their mediators daily online. Schedules have been created for all grade levels that include individual meeting times with advisors and coaches. Students continue to work on their fluency activities daily via the CyberSlate program, a fluency program created at Ben Bronz Academy. As this is an activity that students were already completing daily at home, the routine has not changed.

All materials and classwork have been provided to students and the daily routine has continued. Gym classes have even been provided via online platforms and students complete a weekly workout with one of our mediators.

At Ben Bronz Academy, the students are really hard workers despite their learning differences. Although this situation is not ideal, Ben Bronz Academy is making the most of it and seeing students make strides in their learning. An outside observer would say that the students and staff at Ben Bronz Academy have not skipped a beat.

Ben Bronz Academy is proud to continue to offer our students a quality education with a focus on academics, albeit in a different form. The students are fully engaged and have access to mediators on a daily basis. The Academy never missed a day of school and intends to meet the 180-day requirement at this point.

Although so many things have changed during the coronavirus pandemic and our lives seem very unfamiliar at times, the Ben Bronz Family has provided some stability to each other as they continue to support each other, connect, and learn. In a time of uncertainty and doubt, this is a beautiful thing! 

Ben Bronz Foundation, Inc. is the parent organization of Ben Bronz Academy and The Learning Incentive. If you are interested in learning more about Ben Bronz Foundation, Inc. and our programs, Ben Bronz Academy and The Learning Incentive, please visit our websites: www.benbronzfoundation.org or www.benbronzacademy.org or contact Executive Director Kim Holley at [email protected].

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