ONONDAGA COUNTY, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Though Wednesday was the first day of school for those in the Westhill Central School District, all kids will be staying home because the district is going with a hybrid learning model, using Wednesdays as cleaning days. 

But for some parents, the hybrid model of learning is both bitter and sweet. NewsChannel 9’s Julia LeBlanc spoke with a family who shared how the model is affecting them.

Jackson Terek has non-verbal autism. His parents said they are grateful he will be in school four days a week, but they know on Wednesdays, he won’t be getting the help he needs. Also, they are terrified that at some point, COVID-19 could force an all-remote learning model, which doesn’t work for Jackson.

It’s been months since 5-year-old Jackson has gotten the education he needs. He has non-verbal autism and with his schooling, comes many services.

His mom, Nickole Terek, said, “He normally gets physical therapy, he gets occupational therapy, speech therapy, music therapy, behavioral therapy. He was missing all of that while the school was closed.”

With the Westhill model, he’ll be getting most of that help four days a week, except for behavioral therapy. For that, his parents are paying for an outside service. They’ve been struggling to keep up during the pandemic.

Joe and Nickole Terek say Jackson only got a few weeks of learning in after his summer program closed because of COVID. His dad trying to take on the role of parent, teacher, and therapist ever since.

“It’s been great news that he’s going back to school for me, as far as work-wise. But also that he’s getting his therapies and he’s getting what he needs,” Joe said.

Especially since his parents say they notice Jackson’s been losing his progress. It’s hard for him to pick up on social cues, so he uses non-verbal communication and physical touch to let others know how he’s feeling. Those are all things that can’t be done through a computer.

“Remote learning has not been something that’s been beneficial for Jackson. I’ve talked with other parents whose kids also receive special education and remote learning isn’t working for them, either,” Nickole said.

And though Jackson won’t be in a typical kindergarten class, he will be getting one on one attention with a small group of students. Precious time and attention his parents are terrified could be ruined if COVID strikes again. 

Nickole said, “I just want people to be patient with the kids and parents, you know, with special needs. It’s a rough time for everybody, but especially for these kids.”

The Tereks say Jackson has been receiving services during school for three years and they say the district has been great when it comes to making sure Jackson gets what he needs during the pandemic.

Westhill Superintendent Casey Barduhn spoke with Julia LeBlanc on Wednesday morning. Click the player below to watch the interview.