'This is my family.' Long Islanders with special needs excited to return to full-time in-person learning
Some Long Islanders with special needs returned to full-time in-person learning Wednesday for the first time in nearly two years.
The pandemic left classroom instruction nonexistent for special-needs individuals at Family Residences and Essential Enterprises in Old Bethpage.
Program participants like Commack resident Leah Saitta say they missed out on a lot when COVID-19 shut down classroom instruction.
"I don't like COVID," Saitta says. "COVID has been on horrible thing that we've been in."
FREE's program took place on Zoom since the pandemic began.
Ashli Thompson, a FREE habilitation specialist, says it's been difficult with a lot of parents in the background, noises, students eating or sleeping.
As more restrictions are lifted, program participants will be able to do more activities as a group.
Thompson says they will be able to go bowling, go to the movies and more.
Just being together was enough for some of the program participants.
"I love being here," Saitta says. "This is my family."