CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Last year, doctors diagnosed then-nine year old Jo Rox with a rare autoimmune disease called Juvenile Dermatomyositis.
The condition and the treatments for it, including chemotherapy, left her very weak and susceptible to illnesses including COVID-19.
She finished her fourth grade school year, like lots of Corpus Christi Independent School District students, online.
But with CCISD not offering virtual instruction this school year, her mother turned to the Homebound Program that's available to students with disabilities.
It provides four hours of instruction at-home for students like Jo, and it was supposed to begin for her on September 2 -- almost a month after the school year began.
“Then I get a call that day from the Homebound Program at CCISD," Jo's mother Brigitte Rox said. "They don’t have a teacher for her. Nobody’s coming today. There’s a shortage of teachers."
Two more weeks passed with Brigitte repeatedly asking the school district for answers.
Then, a week ago, a teacher at Jo's school agreed to start one-hour visits to her home four days a week to provide Jo with personalized instruction.
“I feel really good with a teacher coming over,” Jo said.
There are some teachers who work strictly for the Homebound Program, while others pull double duty -- like the teacher who's helping Jo.
She receives extra compensation for her extra work from the state either through special education or students with disabilities funds.
CCISD's Senior Director of Special Education Melly Guerra says Homebound serves around 30 students each school year, and that number hasn't fluctuated much even as COVID-19 concerns swirl.
“I would say that we’ve gotten more inquiries than before," Guerra said. "Our students who have been found to be eligible for receiving services has been higher this year than last year but not anything too far off from where we usually are."
The school district doesn't comment on an individual student's case, so there's no explanation for Brigitte's claims that it took weeks for a Homebound Program teacher to start making visits.
It's also unclear how long the visits will last, and Jo has to make-up for the weeks of missed instruction time.
But now that those in-home lessons are in their second week, Brigitte's already seeing a difference.
“When I met (the teacher), she was just absolutely warm and welcoming and accommodating and is genuinely concerned with Jo’s health, well being, and education,” Brigitte said.