ACCEL International Center reopens
With COVID-19 precautions in place, therapy and training sessions resume.
Sukaiynah Alhubail works one-on-one with her students as they go through a series of math exercises on a Monday morning at the Ajyal Center for Comprehensive Education and Life Skills (ACCEL) International Center. Her class is smaller — there are only four students per class instead of the usual eight — and the rhythm of the day is punctuated by regular pauses to clean and disinfect classrooms, but these changes don’t diminish the sense of normalcy Alhubail and her students feel.
“We’re getting back to what we were doing before COVID,” she said. “Everything is the same, just now with extra cleaning and precautions.”
Like other schools throughout the Kingdom, ACCEL, which provides a range of therapy and training services for individuals with developmental disabilities, had to suspend face to face classes earlier this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, ACCEL staff moved quickly to develop a program of online instruction for students that included therapeutic and academic components.
Alhubail said some of the biggest challenges with developing a program of online instruction for her students involved providing differentiated instruction, which caters to students’ individual capabilities. Alhubail said mastering Zoom, the software platform used to hold class online, and applying classroom management techniques have been helpful.
As educators, we have to be flexible, so while frustrating at first, this was a great opportunity to grow.
— Sukaiynah Alhubail
As the new school year in September approached, ACCEL, which is administered by an Arizona-based center, began adapting plans used by its parent organization in the U.S. to resume in-person instruction. The Ministry of Education approved ACCEL’s “4-4-4 plan,” which consists of having students in class four days per week, four hours per day, with a maximum of four students in a classroom.
Additional staff have been hired to accommodate the smaller class size mandate. Online instruction also continues one day per week. Plans to reopen included appropriate sanitization, mask wearing, and social distancing requirements. In-person classes at ACCEL resumed in late October.
“It’s a relief to have the kids back, it brings the life back to the center,” Phillip Tanner, executive director of the center, said. “All of the extra precautions and added staff have been worth it to have the kids back.”
More services for more students
Tanner said that while online instruction, coupled with parental involvement, can be helpful for ACCEL’s students, face-to-face instruction remains ideal for the educational and therapeutic services provided by ACCEL. The center is currently serving 96 students, and plans to add 35 more upon successful piloting of the 4-4-4 plan.
One benefit of the resumption of in-person classes has been the use of COVID-19 precautions as a learning experience. Students at ACCEL participate in sanitizing classrooms, learning how to clean and protect themselves from infection.
“Our greatest goal is to provide our students with the skills they need to live as independently as possible,” Tanner said. “In the era of COVID-19, learning to properly clean and sanitize is critical. It’s a healthy practice, and we want them to be healthy.”