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 Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) - School Closures


QuestionAnswerStatus

1.     If a school system is moving services to virtual or online learning for all students, will we be required to amend the IEPs?

 

If moving to virtual or online instruction is part of the school closure recommendation, then OSEP will not require you to go back into the IEP. This decision will be an alternate mode of instructional delivery for all students.

 

However, the IEP Team can develop a distance learning plan as a contingency plan in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak that requires school closures.  Contingent provisions may include the provision of special education and related services at an alternate location or the provision of online or virtual instruction, instructional telephone calls, and other curriculum-based instructional activities, and may identify which special education and related services, if any, could be provided at the child's home.

 

While the distance learning plan is not necessarily an amendment to the IEP, the school system should adhere to the IEP amendment guidelines to ensure that families have meaningful opportunities to engage in this process.

 

In making changes to a child's IEP after the annual IEP Team meeting for a school year, the parent(s) of a child with a disability and the LEA may agree not to convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making those changes, and instead may develop a written document to amend or modify the child's current IEP.

 

 

2.     What if the school system would like to maintain virtual, online instruction after the student returns to school?

 

The IEP Team will need to address the change of placement in the IEP.

 

 

3.     If a school system closes for several weeks, will they need to consider compensatory services for every student with a disability?

 

The IEP will need to review data and make individual determinations. It could be helpful to address the needs of students with disabilities within the larger context of remediation needs to address loss of skills for students with and without disabilities.   

4.     Are we required to make compensatory services available to preschool students?

 

 

Per OSEP's guidance, compensatory is intended for school ages. You are not required to look at compensatory services for this age group. You may want to consider related services. 

 

Georgia has not differentiated between preschool students and school age students concerning compensatory services and encourages IEP teams to evaluate the individual impact of school closures for each student with a disability-to include preschool students with disabilities.

 

 

5.     Are schools required to provide services during school closures?

 

The school system is not obligated to provide special education services if all students are not receiving instruction.

 

 

6.     What if the school is closed, but students continue to access instruction?

 

 

 

The school system must provide access to the curriculum for each student and cannot discriminate based on individual needs.

 

 

7.     What if this transition does not meet the individual needs of students?

 

 

The school system should consider compensatory service options to address this concern.

 

 

8.     What if an individual student is unable to access instruction based on a quarantine?

 

Consider the hospital/homebased instruction procedures to address the student's individual needs. Always consider safety first!

 

 

9.     How will school systems address IEPs that will expire during remote learning time.

 

IEPs must be reviewed annually.  34 C.F.R.§ 300.324(b)(1).  LEAs and parents may mutually agree to use alternative means to hold the annual review IEP Team meeting, including video conferences or conference calls. 34 C.F.R. § 300.328.  Additionally, LEAs and parents may mutually agree to extend the timeline to conduct the annual review IEP Team meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  See USED Supplemental Fact Sheet. 

 

In making changes to a child's IEP after the annual IEP Team meeting, LEAs and parents may agree to not convene an IEP Team meeting, in-person or through alternative means, for the purposes of making those changes, and instead develop a written document to amend or modify the child's current IEP.  34 C.F.R. § 300.324(a)(4)(i). 

 

10.  What if the parent chooses to keep the child out of school and not access services?

 

The school system should make services available and address this instance as the local procedures to be absent from school.

 

 

11.  If school systems are sending work home as a precautionary measure, is this considered continuation of services?

 

The school system should consider individual access to the resources.

 

 

12.  Do you anticipate flexibility with timelines for evaluations based on school closures?

 

An initial evaluation must be conducted within 60 days of receiving parental consent or within the state-established timeline. 34 C.F.R. § 300.301(c).  Completion of the initial evaluation is defined as completion of the evaluation report(s). GaDOE Special Education Rules Implementation Manual, Evaluation and Reevaluation chapter, page 1, August 6, 2018.  “Holiday periods and other circumstances when children are not in attendance for five consecutive school days shall not be counted toward the 60 calendar day timeline, including the weekend days before and after such holiday period [or other circumstance], if contiguous to the holidays [or other circumstances]. . ."  Ga. Bd. of Educ. R. 160-4-7-.04 (1)(b)(1). 

 

Five or more consecutive days when children are not physically in attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic is considered an “other circumstance," and such days, including contiguous weekend days, will not be counted toward the 60 calendar day initial evaluation timeline.  Additionally, LEAs and parents may mutually agree to extend the timeline to conduct the initial evaluation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

13.  If the student does not access the alternative supports, will the school system be responsible for compensatory services?

 

The school system must ensure that the student doesn't have an access issue. If the use of the materials is available but not used, then the school system obligation has been met.

 

 

14.  What if the student does not have access to hardware and appropriate technology?

 

The school system will need to consider alternative ways to provide the instruction.

 

 
15.  Can you define educational services?

Educational services would be instructional services or related services necessary to meet the unique needs of a student with a disability.

 

 
16.  If the state waives school days, are local IEP teams required to ensure that FAPE is equal to the normal operation?

The school system would not be required to make up services for days waived for all students.

 

 

17.  Will this emergency allow an extension to the 60-day timeline for a formal complaint?

 

LEAs and parents may mutually agree to an extension of the 60-day timeline for complaint resolution to engage in mediation.  34 C.F.R. § 300.152(b)(ii); Ga. Bd. of Educ. R. 160-4-7-.12(1)(12).  LEAs and parents may also mutually agree to an extension of the 60-day timeline for complaint resolution due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

An SEA may extend the 60-day timeline for complaint resolution if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to a particular complaint.  34 C.F.R. § 300.152(b)(1). 

 

In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, exceptional circumstances may exist with respect to a particular complaint to warrant the SEA extending the 60-day timeline for complaint resolution.  This determination will be made on an individual basis.  

 
18.  Can telepractice address the FAPE offering?Yes, it can address the provision of FAPE if it is meeting the individualized needs of the student. 
19.  What documentation is necessary to ensure that telepractice addressed the provision of FAPE?

Staff should maintain documentation of specific services, progress, and any service gaps.

 

 

20.  Is there an obligation for service providers to offer in-home therapy such as speech services or occupational therapy?

 

There is not an in-home requirement. The school system could use alternative strategies or modes.

 

 

21.  What are helpful procedures to consider during a quarantine requirement for individual student with a disability?

 

 

Consider alternatives to school-based learning. These might include homebound instruction, instructional telephone calls, online learning, homework packets, or other distance-based learning strategies, the 2009 guidance said.

Allow IEP teams to meet virtually. IEP teams are allowed to meet virtually to confer about individual student supports. Additionally, assessments and evaluation activities that are available online should continue during a quarantine. If face-to-face meetings are required but impossible to carry out during a school shutdown or because of a student's illness, those activities will need to be delayed.

Consider changes in placement. If the school closure is for an extended period, the LEA must consider placement decisions for students with disabilities under the IDEA's procedural protections. 34 CFR 300.115 through 34 CFR 300.116. If the team decides that a student's needs can be met through homebound instruction, then the district must issue a prior written notice proposing the change in placement. Parents can challenge this change in placement, according to the 2009 guidance.

 
22.  Is there flexibility with the timeline to develop an initial IEP?

A meeting to develop an initial IEP must be conducted within 30 days of a determination that a child needs special education and related services.  34 C.F.R. § 300.323(c)(1).  LEAs and parents may mutually agree to use alternative means to hold the initial IEP Team meeting, including video conferences or conference calls. 34 C.F.R. § 300.328.  Additionally, LEAs and parents may mutually agree to extend the timeline to meet and develop the initial IEP due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

 
23.  Can non-students observe a virtual lesson?

Assuming that during the virtual lesson, PII from student education records is not disclosed, FERPA would not prohibit a non-student from observing the lesson.

The directory information exception permits certain PII from education records which an educational agency or institution has designated as directory information to be disclosed during classroom instruction to students who are enrolled in, and attending, a class. The directory information exception may not be used to opt out of disclosures of a student's name, identifier, or institutional email address in a class in which the student is enrolled. 34 CFR §99.37(c)(1).

 

As a best practice, educational agencies and institutions should discourage non-students from observing virtual classrooms in the event that PII from a student's education record is, in fact, disclosed in such virtual classrooms.

 

Schools may wish to include instructions for students participating in the virtual classroom regarding not sharing or recording any PII from education records that may be disclosed in the virtual classroom or to obtain prior written consent to permit any such sharing of PII from education records. https://www.gadoe.org/Technology-Services/Data-Collections/Documents/Data%20Collection%20Website/FY2020/FERPA%20and%20Virtual%20Learning.pdf

 

 
24.  How can IDEA funds support school systems during the COVID-19 school closures?

Equipment and other electronic devices are allowable to be paid from IDEA for students with disabilities. Allocability allows IDEA funds to be used pay for internet services and hotspots for access the curriculum for students with disabilities in proportion to the benefit to the grant.

 

While generally IDEA funds must be used only for the excess cost of educating students with disabilities, in an instance of accessing the curriculum, it is allowable because it is reasonable, necessary, and mostly allocable.

 

 
25.  In light of school closures, should the school system suspend contracts with related service providers such as occupational therapists, speech therapists, etc.?Contracts should always be reviewed on a case by case basis. However, in many instances the school system may be able to amend the deliverables to meet the terms of the contract. Related service providers can help families and students on an individual basis in the form of virtual learning or guidance for at-home activities. Documentation would still be needed to support the work of the contract. 
26.  Are there specific guidelines to support school systems with extended school year guidance? For example, if health and safety guidance prohibits face-to-face instruction during the summer, then how should school systems address ESY requirements?The school system is not required to amend the IEP to edit provision of extended school year services. Each school system should develop distance learning plans to ensure that special education services are provided to the greatest extent possible during this interim period. The IEP Team should revisit the appropriateness of face-to-face services per guidance at this time. If face-to-face services are not appropriate, the IEP Team should consider alternatives for providing ESY. 
27.  When should school systems coordinate with parents to mutually agree on timeline extensions? Is there guidance how the school system should document this process for state purposes?The school system should always document any attempt to reach consensus, as well as, instances in which the consensus is agreed upon by both entities. Documentation can include confirmation emails, letters outlining the request for parent signatures, as well as other anecdotal records. 
28.  Are school systems required to complete progress reports for the last nine weeks?The school system is required to report on progress of IEP goals for students with disabilities at the same frequency of reports for all students. In some instances, school systems have amended the timeline for progress reports for all students, and progress reports for students with disabilities can follow this timeline. Progress reporting on each IEP goal may not be appropriate during the time of school closures pending the provision of special education services.Updated 5/18/2020
29.  Should the distance learning plan be shared with each parent?   Can it be a global plan for the school system?

A distance learning plan should be written for each student with a disability. While the school system will not be required to amend the IEP or develop a distance learning plan, the distance learning plan should consider the special education and related services that can be provided to the greatest extent possible. The distance learning planning process should engage families and use the IEP amendment procedures. Even if a school system opts not to develop a distance learning plan, the school system must document the offering of a free appropriate public education, access to the general curriculum based on provision of educational services for all students, and the degree by which families have been engaged in this process.

 

In addition to an individualized distance learning plan, the school system should consider systemwide procedures necessary to provide access to the general curriculum and special education services for all students with disabilities. The systemwide plan will ensure that the school system has procedures to address the unique needs of targeted groups of students. In some instances, school systems may use individualized documentation of special education services and contacts to support comprehensive distance learning plans.

Updated! 5/18/20
30.  If a school system is considering maintenance of skills for all students, can we use this process for students with disabilities?Yes, the school system should report progress on the IEP Goals considering the larger context of access to the curriculum for all students. If the school system has provided broad guidance to revise progress reporting/report card procedures, then it would be appropriate to examine the progress for students with disabilities within this larger context as aligned for all students.  
31.  Will GaDOE provide a template for distance learning plans?

Georgia does not require a specific template.

 

You may view the CEC website to consider sample templates that may be localized and used for your school system.

 

Another helpful resource to consider is the Council of Administrators for Special Education (CASE), which includes a sample Distance Learning Plan template provided by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qqhTLwdnC8Nv41I2ffgZKW2scyP1WpPF/view

 

 
32.  Can we email documents that include PII?The school system must adhere to FERPA guidelines. If the school system emails documents, then there are strategies to secure the documents during transmission. 
33.  If we are following the amendment process, then do we need to have meetings to include parents?

Yes, the A Distance Learning Plan is not amending the IEP but should follow the amendment process. These changes can be made either by the entire IEP Team at an IEP Team meeting or by agreement between the parents and LEA.

The parent(s) of a child with a disability and the LEA may agree not to convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making those changes, and instead may develop a written document to amend or modify the child's current IEP. [34 C.F.R. § 300.324(a)(4)(i)] (Webinar Slide 19 dated 4/3/2020)

 
34.  Are school systems required to provide services for students with disabilities enrolled by their parents in private schools?Yes, while there is not an individual entitlement for FAPE, the school system should consider the special education services outlined in the service plan and provide those services to the greatest extent possible. 
35.  If the school system holds an annual review meeting or an initial IEP meeting, should the IEP team outline services in light of these circumstances?It would be prudent to develop or review  an IEP and make an offer of FAPE based on what the IEP team recommends for the student during a typical school session. During this process, you can address contingency planning. 
36.  How would you recommend we hold private home school consultation?The school system should consider alternative modes such as a virtual meeting to hold private school consultation meetings. 
37.  How should the school system move forward concerning students identified as significant developmental delayed if they have not completed the reevaluation process?If the school system is unable to complete the reevaluation during school closures, then the evaluation should be completed within a reasonable timeframe after resuming a normal schedule. 
38.  Are speech/language pathologists allowed to provide virtual services without a state licensure?No, all special education service providers must demonstrate the same Georgia Professional Standards Commission requirements. 
39.  Will a loss in state and/or local revenue impact IDEA Maintenance of Effort (MOE) calculations for FY21?It is possible. LEAs may use allowable exceptions or the permitted allowable adjustment to reduce state and local effort at any time before March 1st, 2022 for the FY21 submission. Understanding any shortfalls early will greatly assist LEAs in meeting the standard. Therefore, we strongly encourage LEAs to run the calculation before expenditures happen and before expenditures are reported on the DE046.  Special Education Budget Liaisons will be happy to offer technical assistance and guide LEAs through options. 
40.  We have several reevaluations that have not been completed for seniors based on school closures. Will we be able to pull these students in for testing during the summer/early fall to complete these reevaluations?For seniors being reevaluated to support effective transition, you can extend the offer to evaluate over the summer/fall if all health and safety guidance permits.  Since most students will be 18 years old by this time, remember the transfer of rights would have occurred.  The student would need to sign permission to evaluate unless the parent has guardianship or other documents to support the parent's right to decision making. New! 5/18/20
41.  Are LEAs permitted to use IDEA funds for evaluations for students who graduated in FY20?

Generally, once students have graduated there is no longer an offer of FAPE and IDEA funds could not be used for evaluations for those students. COVID-19 school closures presented unique procedural circumstances; therefore, flexibility may be appropriate to permit IDEA funds to be used for evaluations of student who have graduated.

 

For instance, if evaluations were needed for transition purposes before the students graduated, then it may be allowable to use IDEA funds to provide those evaluations until the end of the grant period of September 30th. However, allowability is determined on an individual student and LEA basis. Cost principles still apply. Local educational agencies are encouraged to reach out to their IDEA Budget Liaisons if further specific discussions are needed.

 

New! 5/18/20​