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C.O. special education program gears up to welcome back students

NEST stands for 'Nurturing Empathy, Safety and Trust'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Some families of Central Oregon special needs students are gearing up to head back to the classroom for in-person learning.

The High Desert Education Service District works with Bend La Pine Schools to help students experiencing intensive behavioral and social skill challenges through their NEST program (Nurturing Empathy, Safety and Trust).

Recently, they've transformed their learning space for their students.

Now, when they come to class, they'll find car designed desks that have Plexiglas dividers, and students and staff will have to wear masks and practice proper hand-washing.

Ian Kaye, one of NEST's special education teachers, said Tuesday that this time has been an adjustment for students and their parents.

"I think it becomes especially difficult when you have kids with special needs," Kaye said. "Normally, you have highly trained professionals doing that work for them.

Students in the NEST program will come to class every day for two hours and 45 minutes to work on academic and social skills. There are six students in kindergarten through second grade, and four students in third through fifth grade.

Shauntai Nickerson told NewsChannel 21 her 10-year-old son, Griffin, has struggled learning from home, so going back to the classroom is a welcome change.

"I think it will be great for Griffin, because I am not certified teaching a special needs student," Nickerson said. "And I think it will be great for my son to get the help that he needs from the skilled teachers that he needs to get it from."

Kaye said distanced learning could have really challenged their parents, but it made them much more hand-on. He said it's important to have strong relationships with both parents and students.

"If I don't have a relationship with a kid, it doesn't matter how many skills I have, I'm not going to be able to succeed in working with that kid," Kaye said. So it's really important to have those relationships with the kids."

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.


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