Family excited telepresence tech funding will help other kids facing extended absences

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YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – This year’s state budget includes more funding to help students at home or in the hospital with serious illnesses or injuries.

Telepresence technology allows kids to be in the classroom virtually.

“I thought … well, where am I going to be in the next six months,” said Zachary Shiffer, who lives in York. “Am I still going to be in school?”

Zachary Shiffer says he still thinks about second grade every day.

“In January of 2016, he was diagnosed with AML, which is acute myeloid leukemia,” said Erin Shiffer, Zachary’s mom.

He didn’t let that hold him back from excelling in academics and bonding with friends.

“We had a laptop in the hospital room that he was able to remotely control the robot with,” said Jason Shiffer, Zachary’s dad. “The robot could basically do anything that a regular kid could do.”

The Central York student was one of the first in the area to try telepresence technology.

“I thought it was pretty neat,” said Zachary Shiffer. “I was still able to do work there and do science projects and do a math quiz.”

State Sen. Scott Martin says thousands of kids in the hospital or who are homebound are in need of this tool.

“It’s very tough and can be costly to school districts as well to find content-certified teachers to be able to go to somebody’s home,” Martin said.

That’s why Martin pushed for $300,000 of funding for schools to purchase equipment.

Senate Bill 144 got signed into law this week.

“I think it’s a win win for everybody,” said Martin.

“I was still able to communicate with my friends and just like I never left,” said Zachary Shiffer.

Zachary Shiffer said learning through the robot made resuming school a piece of cake.

Next Sunday marks three years in remission.

“Thankful for every day,” Erin Shiffer said .

“I’m just really glad that people are still trying to overcome their cancer or whatever they have and at the same time still being able to interact with school,” said Zachary Shiffer.

That law goes into effect in about two months.

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