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MOVE TO INCLUDE is a partnership between WXXI and the Golisano Foundation designed to promote inclusion for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Through programming and special events, WXXI and the Golisano Foundation look to build a more inclusive community by inspiring and motivating people to embrace different abilities and include all people in every aspect of community life.

Holy Childhood students welcome the chance to spend more time in the classroom

Max Schulte/WXXI News
Students Corynn Dunton and Sky Amish are excited to return to more in-person learning days at Holy Childhood.

Sky Amish goes to school at a community classroom at the Genesee Valley Regional Market in Henrietta.

Since August, Amish, who is 18, and most of the other 100-plus students enrolled at Holy Childhood have been attending in-person classes just two days a week, many of them at the school's main campus on Groton Parkway in Henrietta.

The other three days, they were learning remotely. 

Amish is not a fan of getting virtual lessons on a laptop.

"Kinda tricky ... it's kinda crazy," he said.

His classmate, Corynn Dunton, also 18, agrees.  They're both excited about a new hybrid plan that started this week: four days a week in the classroom and one day at home.

"I'm ready for it 'cause I don't like doing school online at home," Dunton said.

School program director Dave Halpern said a lot of thought went into the decision and it seemed like the right time for the transition to mostly in-person learning.

"Because the January surge was ending and the vaccines were coming out," he said. "A number of staff have at least have one dose in; some actually have two, so we're moving in the right direction for that, as well."

According to Halpern, Holy Childhood escaped the last 10 months without a single confirmed case of COVID-19 among staff and students.

Some individuals, he said, were placed in quarantine after being exposed to family members who tested positive.

Credit Max Schulte/WXXI News
Holy Childhood teachers Tracey Johnston and Maria Lasch are adapting once again to working with students through the pandemic. Lasch will be teaching in-person classes four days a week while Johnston will work with the students who are choosing full-time remote learning.

Teacher Maria Lasch is making the transition to four days in class along with her students. She thinks more time in school will help them with their social-emotional development.

"Even socially distanced," she said, "we can get back together in a room, or at least a building, and see each other and make those connections. It will also help students' consistency in routine and in learning systems."

Some students have been learning on a full remote schedule since last March. At the request of their families, 20 students will continue to do so.

While that may not be an ideal learning environment for special education students, teacher Tracey Johnston said her students have grown in ways that might not have happened if they hadn't been forced to adjust.

"We have students who weren't even introduced to using a laptop or a Chromebook or a device who, crash course, have risen to the occasion," she said.

Credit Max Schulte/WXXI News
Corynn Dunton is eager for in-person learning at Holy Childhood.

Newly learned skills aside, Dunton said she is more than happy to put her laptop down, get back into a classroom and spend more time with her friends, even if that means wearing a mask all day.

"I don't mind it at all," she said.

This story is part of Dialogue on Disability week, a partnership between WXXI and Al Sigl Community of Agencies, in conjunction with the Herman and Margaret Schwartz Community Series.