Teachers’ desks were piled with cards, apples and assorted treats, as students and parents thanked them for their hard work during Teacher Appreciation Week. Quality education is important for all kids, but what happens if they’re in the hospital and can’t go to school? At CHoR, they keep learning with the help of the teachers in our Hospital Education Program.
Approximately two dozen full-time, master’s-level teachers work with children year-round at CHoR. Most of them have certifications in special education, while others are content specialists. Not only are they education experts, but they understand the unique needs of children and their families while in the hospital.
On our Brook Road campus, where children usually have long-term stays, the program runs similar to a standard school. The building includes five classrooms where children come, if they are able, for a full day of group learning. In addition to focusing on the Virginia standards of learning, instruction includes art, music, plays and community-based education. The children also host special plays and musical events for parents and staff.
The program is more fluid in the acute care setting downtown, as some children stay for only a few days, while others are here much longer. The teachers work closely with local school divisions and classroom teachers to help the students keep up with their school work, maintaining the classroom pace as closely as possible. Teachers also coordinate with the medical team to work around procedures and doctor visits, taking into consideration infection control guidelines and any special precautions.
The hope is that the children can come to the classroom for instruction if they are feeling well enough. This has several benefits, including getting them in the mindset for learning and maintaining some normalcy in their daily activities. They can also take advantage of all the resources available, such as computers, books and games. If the kids aren’t up for it, teachers come into the hospital room for one-on-one sessions. The program sends grades and notification of enrollment to students’ home schools.
Beyond the hospital
Medical conditions can impact learning, even when children aren’t in the hospital. Our teachers may gather specific assignments or other materials from a child’s home school, or visit a school to help with a patient’s return after leaving the hospital. The Hospital Education Program also includes educational consultants who work with students ages two through 21 in outpatient clinics supported by CHoR. They’re licensed teachers who help patients, families and school divisions understand accommodations that may be needed for new diagnoses, or recommend adjustments based on progression of an illness or injury.
These educational services are sponsored and funded by the Virginia Department of Education in cooperation with the Richmond Public Schools and come at no cost to families.
“This is an exceptional added bonus for kids who come to CHoR for care,” says Dr. Nathan Sparks, director of the Hospital Education Program. “Some of them are missing out on a lot while they’re in the hospital. This program helps them stay on course and keep their grades up, so it’s one less thing they have to worry about.”
At CHoR, we want kids to be kids – that includes going to school, and having fun while they’re at it!