Workspace Photo

Barbara Blaine shared photos of her child's workspace for online school. 

CASA GRANDE — Bethany Cardenas has watched with a bit of anxiety as her 13-year-old son Blaze, who has autism, attempts to adjust to nontraditional, online learning in the age of COVID-19.

“My son has autism. He needs social interaction,” Cardenas said. “It’s not anyone’s fault, but it’s concerning.”

According to Cardenas, the only service being provided to her son in the midst of this pandemic is a half-hour session with seven other students with special needs. Cardenas is worried because her son needs the social aspect of class and suffers from short-term memory loss.

“I feel like it’s 100 times worse since the start of coronavirus. My son gets blamed when he doesn’t remember a password,” Cardenas said. “It’s a tortuous thing to watch your kid cry and hate himself.”

Cardenas has two other children and has found it difficult to assist all of them simultaneously in online learning.

“I feel utterly alone, and I know I can’t be the only one,” Cardenas said. Blaze attends Casa Grande Middle School, which is part of the Casa Grande Elementary School District.

Students, teachers and parents across Casa Grande and the nation are adjusting to online learning.

“The special education staff in our district are diligently working to ensure we are providing support to our students. The staff are providing special education services that address the needs identified in each student’s Individual Education Plan,” spokesman Mike Cruz said.

Cruz encourages parents who are experiencing roadblocks or concerns to reach out to their case managers for ways to support their schedules across virtual platforms.

Throughout the week, many parents turned to Casa Grande social media to share their experiences and seek advice.

Barbara Blain shared a photo of her children’s workspace.

“The first couple of days were difficult to figure out how to get online but the teachers at the Casa Grande (Elementary) School District have been super,” Blain said.

According to CGESD, the first week of online school was successful.

“Teachers are building strong relationships with students and delivering quality online instruction. Students have been able to interact with their friends and classmates online through virtual group discussions and break-out sessions,” Cruz said.

According to Cruz, every student and family who needed a device received it.

“The United Way of Pinal County and the Casa Grande Alliance have opened up their facilities to serve as a learning hub,” he said. “A learning hub is a community partner that has opened up their facilities to allow students to come in during designated hours to access the internet for distance learning in a safe and supervised learning environment.”

Nikki Watts is a mother of three. She has two children attending Casa Grande Union High School and a sixth grader at Villago Middle School.

“Both schools were extremely helpful with fixing the issues and were never rude. By Wednesday, we were moving along in a groove,” Watts said.

No date has been established for a return to in-person learning in Casa Grande. The Casa Grande Elementary School District announced in July that it would not return in person until at least October. If benchmarks set by the state are met, the high school district plans to allow students to return to school in a hybrid-learning setting sooner.

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Gabrielle Olivera is the Casa Grande reporter at PinalCentral, covering government, schools, business and more.

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