Stirpe, Valesky introduce legislation to help sick children stay connected to school

Al Stirpe

David J. Valesky

Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-Cicero) and Senator David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) announced they’ve introduced legislation to create the Virtual Inclusion Plan (VIP) to help fund technology that would allow children with chronic illnesses and those undergoing medical treatments to continue to receive a classroom-based education (A.8748/S.6930).

“A serious illness that requires long-term medical treatment turns a child’s life upside down and can stand in the way of them getting to be a kid,” Stirpe said. “That’s why it’s important to let them learn and grow with their fellow students as much as possible. The VIP program would use technology to keep kids connected to the classroom no matter where they are so they can stay on track with their education.”

Currently, school districts use a combination of tutors and homework packets to meet the educational needs of children dealing with long-term hospitalizations. The amount of schooling children receive dramatically decreases as a result, Stirpe noted, as they could go from receiving 30 hours per week of schooling to less than three under the current methods.

“Nothing should stand in the way of a child getting a proper education,” Valesky said. “We live in a technological age where anything is possible, and that includes ensuring that children dealing with illness can feel like they’re right there in the classroom with their friends, even if they’re at home or in a hospital bed.”

The inspiration behind bringing the VIP program to New York comes from the story of Chloe Burian, a 6-year-old girl whose medical condition and frequent hospital visits prevents her from being able to attend class. At the age of 4, Chloe was diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome, a rare disorder that affects the connective tissue in her body. She’s already had five surgeries in the last two years on her spine, mouth and feet, and is scheduled to have another foot surgery in the coming weeks. Nonetheless, Chloe loves school. Attending class and spending time with her classmates and friends is one of her favorite things, but she is currently unable to do so because of the constant doctor appointments and surgeries.

“Chloe is a bright and brave girl who just wants to be able to do what she loves and attend school with her friends,” Stirpe said. “She, along with the countless other children facing medical challenges, deserves access to the same education and resources, and with technology, we can make it happen.”

Stirpe’s proposal has garnered the support of Dr. Donna DeSiato, superintendent of the East Syracuse Minoa Central School District.

“Expanding access to technology for homebound students is beneficial to student learning and connecting youth with their peers and teachers,” DeSiato said.

State grants would be made availale to the 37 BOCES facilities with centralized technology connected to multiple school districts in each region, as well as the school districts in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Yonkers and New York City that are not part of the BOCES system. Schools would work with the State Education Department to determine the best VIP program for each district depending on the existing technology infrastructure along with the needs of the students.

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