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Reopening Report Card: Some local families with medically vulnerable children faced with tough decisions

Families with medically fragile children have difficult decisions to make about school and COVID-19.

CLEVELAND — When it comes to school, there are a lot of unknowns, especially with families who have medically vulnerable children. 

Joellen Podoll’s family says possible COVID-19 exposure for her daughter with multiple medical conditions could be devastating.

"My biggest concern is I have absolutely no control of where the other children have been, where the teachers have been, who they’ve been exposed to. Where we have been keeping our bubble very, very, very small," Podoll says. 

In addition to worrying about exposure, Nikki Montgomery’s family is concerned about the level of support needed to educate her son, Richie, in the Euclid City School District.  

“My son has a speech therapist and an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, a nurse as educational assistant. All those people work with him during the day. And I would like to know what the plan is for involving them in his care and his learning, because obviously that's what needs and that's what his IEP defines," says Montgomery.

Connecting for Kids, an educational support service, says parents of kids with medical conditions should rightfully be concerned.

"They want answers now so that they can start planning. And yet there's very few answers and that's just a tough place for all of us to be sitting with that much uncertainty," says Sarah Rintamaki, executive director of Connecting for Kids.

For many of these families, back to school will also impact other kids in the home.

"When I’m trying to come up with our plan for fall, it also includes the idea of do we want him going to school and bringing something home as well," asks Podoll. 

As school districts push forward with major decisions, these moms want their kids to be taken into consideration.

"Some of the plans we've seen come down will tell you they had a coalition of educators and you know, all these different leaders, but families are often missing from that list," says Montgomery. "And I think families need to be heard so we know that we can express the challenges of the plans they're coming up with."

Connecting for Kids says there are several options for education, and no one size fits all answers.

"I think we're going to see a lot of variety this fall, and it's going to require the parents to really go out and research what are the right options for their family," Rintamaki advises. 

Connecting for Kids says if you need help, they have resources available to assist families. They want you to know that you’re are not alone trying to figure out how to educate your kids while keeping them healthy.

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