A week ago I shared my anxiety about starting a new school. Anxiety driven by the lack of communication with the school and how they would prepare for my allergic kiddo.
I am happy to be able to report that my last minute 504 meeting went much more smoothly than I expected.
I walked into the meeting full of uncertainty. I went with a copy of our 504, and plenty of training materials to share should it become obvious that the staff needed additional training. I had notes to remind me what additional points of clarification may be needed.
Arriving at the building for a meeting scheduled just 30 minutes before the school wide open house only enhanced my anxiety. How could a 504 meeting be planned to overlap with the open house, when the teachers should be in their rooms greeting their new students? Hmm.
Then, when the teacher greeted me in the office and took me to her classroom for the meeting, my heart sank. It was obvious that the staff had time boxed our meeting to a mere 30 minutes. How could I address misunderstandings and promote an open two way conversation in such a short period of time? I was feeling defensive and uncertain.
The meeting opened, and it quickly became obvious that the staff was incredibly willing to work with me. They were open to each of the items on the existing 504. They showed no resistance. None. Everyone seemed willing to accomodate my allergic kiddo, and seemed amused that I needed to verify their level of awareness and willingness to make accommodations.
My only point of contention is one that is not of the school's doing, and does not reflect negatively upon them. In our current 504 the responsibility of each partner is outlined: how the parent, the child, the teacher, the staff will all work together to form a team designed to ensure the safety of the allergic kiddo. The principal informed me that when the plan is re-written at the one year mark, it will no longer include any verbiage about the parental role in helping to keep the child safe. I find it reprehensible that they are no longer allowed to state what they expect (and need) from the parent in order to safely accomodate the child.
Managing food allergies in the classroom is not the sole responsibility of the school! Parents need to be actively involved in communicating needs, staying informed and providing updated information as it becomes available. Schools should have the continued ability to not only request, but require parental involvement.
*ahem* I digress. Since the 504 meeting, the teachers and the staff have shown on more than one occasion that they are taking the presence of allergies quite seriously. I am very pleased with their responsiveness to our requests, their actions to keep the classroom a safe environment, and their willingness to keep the lines of communication open.
As an allergy parent, my biggest fear is being perceived as adversarial. I worry constantly that that I will come across in a manner that seems demanding, contrary, or unreasonable. Especially now, in a building full of people that do not yet know me! My goal is simple: to keep my daughter safe in the way that causes the least inconvenience to the building. Really. Safe is the priority, but with the least hassle is important. I don't want to be the high maintenance family that inspires eye rolling and muttered grumbling. I strive to find the middle ground where the win-win solutions live, so that everyone can move forward with a good attitude and a sense of satisfaction. I encourage other allergy parents to do the same. (I'm not saying to compromise safety. Never. Just to be pleasant and honestly striving for teamwork rather than focusing solely on fulfilling a list of your expectations.)
How did your 504 meetings go? Any stories of inspiration, unexpected and creative solutions, or lingering frustrations YOU would like to share?