CHICAGO (CBS) — E-learning is a challenge for everyone, but what about kids who already needed special education?

CBS 2’s Megan Hickey asked how the district plans to keep these special needs students from falling further into the cracks.

Just two years ago the Illinois State Board of Education found that many special needs CPS students were being overlooked. Now some families say remote learning is only making that problem worse.

In a video of 9-year-old Elise, the emotional toll that remote learning can take is apparent, especially for a diverse learner like Elise, who was recently diagnosed with autism.

“I’m confused about all this stuff, and I haven’t learned that yet,” an upset Elise can be heard saying.

“Hours it takes us,” said Elise’s mother Dr. Amber Price. “As a mom, you can’t describe it. It breaks your heart. We can’t do remote learning. What are we supposed to do?”

CBS 2 asked Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson how Individualized Education Programs for diverse learners will be met in this remote learning world. She said they are still finalizing those plans.

“Well, as we did last year, we were able to start working on IEPs remotely. This was something that took some time to stand up. We want to get that back on track this year,” Jackson said.

Elise’s mom learned that her fourth grader was eligible for “compensatory education” funds to get one-on-one special education services to help parents pay for a range of tutoring or therapy.

But there is a problem.

“Supposedly there is this big pool of money, but you can’t get to your pool of money until they conduct your meeting,” Price said.

COVID-19 has delayed the required “Student Specific Action Meeting” to get the funds. She was told staffing is one of the issues and that she may not get a meeting until January. Price worries that her family can’t wait that long and neither can other families in the same situation.

“I can’t wait on CPS anymore,” Price said. “If I have to take out loans, fine to pay the rest of this tuition, that’s what I have to do. But most families, 85% of families in CPS are low income. How are they going to get together those resources?”

CBS 2 reached out to CPS for an update on when those required meetings will finally be scheduled. A spokesperson said they are looking into it.

When asked what parents of student with special education plans should be doing right now, school officials said guidance would be coming shortly. Wednesday Jackson said the were going to focus on more one-on-one support and more small group instruction specifically for students with learning challenges.

Megan Hickey