How NTI has changed schooling for students with learning differences


Student’s at-home desk setups during NTI. Photo by Emma Doheny

Anabel Magers

Since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the Jefferson County School District has been using nontraditional instruction, or NTI, due to safety implications of the COVID-19.

This means that all of Manual’s classes are conducted online, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m, and both teachers and students have been struggling with the entire situation.

This change has hit especially hard for students who have learning disabilities, especially those who have a compromised ability to focus or stay on task.

“[NTI] has been terrible,” Cooper Ronay (12, VA) said. He has a 504 plan with the school, and is unable to get the same help that he used to get at school resulting in having a noticeable drop in his grades since stopping in-person instruction.

“I haven’t learned anything. It’s probably because of the lack of organization and consistency.” Ronay said. He believes that being able to engage with teachers and other students in his class was a key part of his success as a student and learner.

“I feel like the teachers are trying their best but there’s only so much that they can do while we’re online,” Gabbi Gorter (12, MST) said. “I feel like it’s affecting my grades and knowledge of the info.”

Gorter has a plan that helps accommodate hearing loss and she has regained most of her hearing, so her plan is not as interactive as others.

On the contrary, other students have a different reaction to how the schools have adapted to being unable to meet in the classroom.

Emma Doheny (12, YPAS) has a plan with counselors to help her stay focused during school, she uses the extra time in her schedule to her advantage.

“I think I’m doing a lot better this year. But I’m pretty sure it’s mostly because I’m getting a lot more sleep,” Emma Doheny (12, YPAS) said.

Doheny is a vocal major, and she is in academically challenging courses, so between after-school vocal lessons, study sessions, and babysitting, she had very little time to rest in the past few academic years.

“Digital school is definitely more productive for me, but I miss seeing my friends,” Doheny said. “Even though NTI has been good for me, I think I would rather actually be there at school pretty soon.”