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Special Education Services during School Closure

Ann Geddes - Thursday, May 14, 2020

On March 30th the Maryland State Department of Education issued guidance on the provision of special education services during school closure owing to COVID-19. The guidelines state:

  • Schools should contact families with a child on an IEP to arrange a plan for services during school closure
  • Schools still need to provide a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to students with disabilities during school closure
  • Students remain entitled to related services on their IEP (such as speech therapy or counselling)

Parents and schools may decide not to convene an IEP meeting to make changes to an IEP if they are in agreement about the changes to be made while the schools are closed. The school still needs to document the changes to the IEP in writing, and parents may request of copy of the written new IEP.

Students will not be able to receive all services on their IEP, but they should receive as much as possible, including related services. Parents and schools should make an agreement in writing that the plan is valid only while schools are closed.

If parents and schools cannot agree, then an IEP meeting should be convened by teleconference (or other means) IF the school-based members of the IEP team have the data needed to make decisions. If an IEP meeting is convened:

  • Parents should ensure that the prior written notice for the meeting states that the parent is not waiving the right to request compensatory (make-up) services after schools reopen
  • Parents should ask the IEP team to document that the services previously on the IEP will be provided when the school opens
  • Parents should try to work cooperatively with the school to develop a plan

After developing either an agreement or a new IEP, parents should keep a log of their child’s present level of performance for each goal and objective on their child’s IEP, and measure progress or lack of progress over time. This documentation will be needed when school re-opens to determine if compensatory services and/or Extended School Year are needed.

MSDE Guidance states that IDEA timelines for evaluations, re-evaluations and annual IEP reviews must be followed, BUT if evaluations, re-evaluations or annual reviews require face-to-face meetings or observations, they will need to be delayed until school re-opens. If they don’t require face-to-face observations or assessments, they can be conducted by teleconference if the parent consents.

Local School Systems

MSDE has required that each school system create “Continuity of Learning Plans” for all students. Some school systems include in their “Continuity of Learning Plans” their plans for special education. Caregivers should check this site frequently for local school system updates.

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