Disability Expo 2-4-23

We’re back! As with many, the pandemic prevented us from being able to have this amazing community event for the last two years, but we have started planning and will be coming together again as a community in February 2023.

The Autistic Disability Advocate & Alachua County Council of PTAs (ACCPTA) are presenting the 4th Annual Disability Resource Expo.

The wonderful Trinity United Methodist Church has welcomed us back with open arms.

This free event is an opportunity for parents and professionals to connect with and discover the wonderful resources that Alachua County and the surrounding area have to offer its Community: those with various learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, anxiety, bullying issues, abuse, for autistic individuals, and more.

There will be a diverse mix of approximately 85 exhibitors present that offer resources for children and young adults: parent support groups, medical and therapeutic services, deaf and blind resources, educational supports, advocacy services, recreational and extra-curricular, and much more.

This event will also be family-friendly with free handouts provided by the vendors and activities and entertainment for children. We will also have food trucks on site.

More details will be provided as we get closer to the date. Be sure to follow our page and share this wonderful event with others!

When:
Saturday, February 4, 2023
11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Where:
Trinity United Methodist Church
4000 NW 53rd Ave
Gainesville, FL 32653

Cost: Free!

CALL TO ACTION: S. 3979 – SUPPORT KIDS NOT RED TAPE ACT

At the onset of the pandemic, Congress gave USDA flexibility in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to issue a number of waivers so that schools and meal program operators could have the flexibility they need to continue to feed children. This allowed Alachua County Public Schools to offer free meals during the school year to all students at all schools. However, these flexibilities will expire on June 30, 2022. This means some schools within our District will no longer be able to provide free meals to all students during the 2022-23 school year.

Those schools include Buchholz High, Chiles Elementary, Ft. Clarke Middle, Gainesville High, Hidden Oak Elementary, High Springs Community, Kanapaha Middle, Meadowbrook Elementary, Newberry High, Oak View Middle, PAM@Loften High, Santa Fe High, Talbot Elementary, and Wiles Elementary. *(Students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals at these schools will still be able to get them, but their families will need to submit an application).

The bipartisan Support Kids Not Red Tape Act would extend the flexibilities for an additional two summers and the 2022-2023 school year to give schools and families time to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic while transitioning back to normal meal operations.

ACCPTA is asking that Florida Senators Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Rick Scott support and cosponsor this legislation, so our schools and families do not lose the lifeline upon which they have relied during increasingly hard economic times.

Your can contact your Senators here:

· https://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact

· https://www.rickscott.senate.gov/contact/contact

ACCPTA Advocacy Update: Student Behavior

There has been a significant increase in behavior concerns in our schools across all levels within the past year – particularly in middle and high school. The impact of the pandemic and other factors on mental health and student behavior is causing concerns for our students, teachers, administrators, district staff, families, and the entire community. We must work together to develop solutions.

ACCPTA has met and continues to meet with district staff to discuss these concerns and find out what the community can do to help. In December, the district let us know they would be conducting a pilot program that would provide two days of focused behavioral training to three teachers at a small number of elementary, middle and high schools. This is a start, but we know there is more to be done.

Staff shortages at schools are contributing to the problem, including a shortage of School Counselors that has worsened this past year. None of our schools have the recommended counselor to student ratio (1:250), which is a statewide issue ACCPTA has been advocating about for many years. Many local schools have openings for counselors that remain unfilled. In addition, our local middle schools lost much-needed behavior paraprofessional positions last summer. We are advocating to get these positions back, as we believe this will have a positive impact on student behavior. We are inquiring about restoring alternative school environments to provide high needs students with the assistance they need. We also continue to advocate for more bus attendants to address behavior issues on some buses.

This spring, ACCPTA partnered with the UF Department of Clinical Health and Psychology to provide monthly Wellness Wednesday virtual workshops on topics to help address student behavior. View recordings below, including our most recent topic: Reducing Aggression & Bullying. Many of our school-based PTA units have also developed programs and activities to address specific behavioral issues at their own schools

We will be releasing a Call to Action shortly with details about how the community can assist with our advocacy efforts. In the meantime, you can reach out to your school’s PTA or other parent organization, or to the school directly, to get more involved and see how you can help be a part of the solution. Our public schools are significantly under-resourced, and they need the help of the community to succeed.

Advocacy, School Board’s search for next Superintendent

ACCPTA recently sent this information to the School Board to advocate regarding the search for our next Superintendent:

Greetings! I hope you are all doing well as we all navigate the ending of yet another challenging school year.

I’m reaching out on behalf of ACCPTA to request that the School Board conduct a national search for the next Superintendent, and that the process include community input.

We know this is a challenging time for our schools and our district – and for public education as a whole (especially in our state). We have observed a large amount of community discord in recent years, as I know you all have as well. We feel a structured selection process with multiple opportunities for community involvement would pave the way for a smooth leadership transition with community support. Starting the process as early as this summer would allow ample time to gather and use information submitted.

ACCPTA stands ready to assist the School Board with the community input process in any way possible. Please let us know how we can be of assistance to this important process.