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Special Education & COVID-19 FAQs
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The following recommendations acknowledge that IDEA-eligible students are entitled to FAPE and that students, families, and schools are having to adapt to novel circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consistent with Secretary DeVos’s April 27, 2020, Report to Congress, these recommendations are also based on the following key principles.
- Schools can, and must, provide education to all students, including children with disabilities;
- The health and safety of children, students, educators, and service providers must be the first consideration;
- The needs and best interests of the individual student, not any system, should guide decisions and expenditures;
- Parents or recipients of services must be informed of, and involved in, decisions relating to the provision of services; and
- Services typically provided in person may now need to be provided through alternative methods, requiring creative and innovative approaches.
Q1. What are compensatory education services?
Compensatory education is an equitable remedy designed to repair educational and functional deficits resulting from the denial of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). In determining compensatory education services, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) employs a qualitative approach that is intended to place a student in the same position they would have been in if FAPE had been provided, rather than calculating the award to account for the exact amount of service minutes identified on the individualized education program (IEP).
Q2. Why might compensatory education services be required as a result of COVID-19 related school closures or suspension of in-person instruction?
In addition to the traditional use of the term “compensatory education services” to describe services required to remedy a violation of IDEA that resulted in a denial of FAPE, this term is also used by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to describe services that may be required to remedy the loss of skills/regression as a result of extended school closures and disruptions to in-person instruction, circumstances caused by the pandemic that are beyond the control of schools. Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus 2019 Outbreak (OSEP 3/2020).
During this unprecedented, national emergency, schools must prioritize, above all else, the safety of students, staff, and communities. Consistent with this priority, schools must also ensure that—to the greatest extent practicable—students with disabilities are provided the special education and related services identified on the IEP. Because FAPE must now be provided consistent with the need to protect health and safety, there may be disruptions, delays, and/or changes in how services are provided that result in a student losing skills. Schools must therefore make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory education services may be needed to make up for any skills that may have been lost as a result of COVID-related disruptions to the provision of FAPE.
Q3. Are all IDEA-eligible students entitled to compensatory education services as a result of COVID-19 related school closures or suspension of in-person learning?
Not necessarily. School districts must ensure that individualized determinations are made as to whether and to what extent a student may require compensatory education services to remediate a loss/regression in skills as a result of the inability to provide services during COVID-related disruptions, such as the suspension of in-person instruction.
Until further guidance is available, the CDE anticipates that the following factors will be relevant when determining whether a student requires compensatory education services as a result of COVID-19 related disruptions to the provision of FAPE:
- Rate of progress on IEP goals prior to closure/disruption;
- Difference between IEP progress monitoring data immediately preceding closure/disruption and IEP progress monitoring data collected a reasonable time after the return to in-person instruction;
- Difference between services identified on the IEP and services offered during closure/ disruption, including amount, frequency, duration, type, and delivery model;
- Accessibility of services offered to the student during closure/disruption;
- Changes in the general education curriculum, as well as level and type of instruction for all students during closure/disruption; and
- Input and information from parents concerning student performance during closure/disruption.
Q4. Should a school district provide summer school and/or extended school year (ESY) services for all students with disabilities as a way to address a potential need for compensatory education services resulting from COVID-19 related closures or suspension of in-person learning?
Not necessarily. Compensatory education services and ESY services are not interchangeable, and a particular student may be entitled to one, both, or neither depending on individual circumstances. Although appropriate and effective ESY services may help a student maintain skills, schools must ensure that individualized determinations are made for ESY eligibility/services and compensatory education services. Schools should not create blanket rules offering ESY to all students or offering a set amount of compensatory education services to all students when they return to school. Please see the Q and A section on ESY for additional information.
Q5. When should schools evaluate the need for compensatory education services?
Although compensatory education services may be most appropriately determined when schools return to normal operations, the CDE recommends that the need for such services be considered as the situation evolves, and schools begin to phase-in more services. In addition, schools should consider services that can be provided during COVID-related disruptions that may mitigate the need for and/or amount of compensatory educational services.
Q6. How should schools determine the need for compensatory education services related to COVID-19?
Schools must make an individualized determination that includes input and involvement from parents as to whether a student needs compensatory education services as a result of disruptions to in-person instruction. Compensatory educational services should be determined by collecting and examining student-specific data, including information from parents, to determine if the student lost skills or regressed on IEP goals as a result of COVID-related disruptions in instructional and related services or the inability to provide FAPE. In making this individualized determination, schools should consider a variety of information, including but not limited to: services provided to all students during the suspension of in-person instruction, the ability of the student to access services provided, regression in skills, and progress or lack of progress made on IEP goals. Parental input will also be useful for evaluating student performance during the suspension of in-person instruction and the need, amount, and delivery of compensatory education services.
Q7. How should schools calculate the amount of compensatory education services related to COVID-19?
School should offer compensatory educational services sufficient to allow the student to recoup lost skills and continue to make progress on IEP goals. Parents and schools are encouraged to consider creative and innovative ways to address regression or loss of skills that carefully consider a student’s individual circumstances, including strengths, impact of disability on learning, and stamina. For example, providing targeted, one-on-one tutoring or instruction, combined with adjustments based on frequent progress monitoring, may allow a student to recover lost skills and make progress in less time.
This does not preclude the IEP team from recommending more intensive services for a student, even if the need may be related entirely or partially to disruptions of in-person instruction resulting from COVID-19.
Q8. When can schools provide compensatory education services?
Compensatory educational services may be provided during the regular school day, over school breaks, in intensive, targeted, individualized programs, one-on-one instruction/tutoring, and by outside service providers. If compensatory educational services are provided during the school day, the provision of these services may not be provided in a manner that changes the least restrictive environment or reduces service minutes on a student’s current IEP, unless agreed to by the IEP team, including parent.
Q9. What happens if a parent disagrees with the school district’s offer of compensatory education services?
Parents are still entitled to IDEA’s procedural safeguards when they disagree with a school district’s provision of FAPE, including a disagreement about compensatory educational services offered to address COVID-related interruptions or loss in services. Parents may therefore use IDEA’s dispute resolution processes, mediation, state complaint, and/or due process complaint, to challenge a decision about compensatory education services.
Whether a parent agrees or disagrees, school districts should issue prior written notice (PWN) to inform parents about determinations regarding compensatory education services. In addition to the other required content, the PWN should explain why the school district is making/or refusing to make the offer and describe the information that served as the basis for this determination in sufficient detail.
Q10. What happens if a parent refused services that were provided during the period of school closure? Does the school district still have to make a determination as to the need for compensatory educational services or make an offer of compensatory educational services?
School districts should regularly make and document attempts to provide services, including contact and communication with parents and students. A parent’s refusal of services may excuse the school district from its obligation to consider or provide compensatory educational services, depending on the individualized circumstances. The inability to access the services offered, however, would not be considered a refusal. Similarly, the student’s inability to benefit from the services offered would not be considered a refusal.
Q11. Is it appropriate to consider compensatory education services for a student who was enrolled during the suspension of in-person instruction due to COVID-19 but "aged out" of special education prior to the resumption of in-person instruction?
Yes. A student “aging-out” does not automatically relieve an AU of its responsibility to provide compensatory education for an inability or failure to provide FAPE, including transition services, during the suspension of in-person instruction due to COVID-19. During COVID-19, the importance of the provision of transition and pre-employment transition services has not changed. Letter to Vocational Rehabilitation and Special Education Partners (OSEP 8/31/2020). Therefore, the AU in which the student was enrolled at the time of an inability or failure to provide a FAPE due to COVID-related disruptions to transition services must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory education services may be needed. Parents and schools are encouraged to consider creative and innovative approaches in fashioning compensatory education service offers.
Recommendations for Contingency Learning Plans
The following recommendations acknowledge that IDEA-eligible students are entitled to FAPE and that students, families, and schools are having to adapt to novel circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consistent with Secretary DeVos’s April 27, 2020, Report to Congress, these recommendations are based on the following key principles.
- Schools can, and must, provide education to all students, including children with disabilities;
- The health and safety of students, educators, and service providers must be the first consideration;
- The needs and best interests of the individual student, not any system, should guide decisions and expenditures;
- Parents or recipients of services must be informed of, and involved in, decisions relating to the provision of services; and
- Services typically provided in person may now need to be provided through alternative methods, requiring creative and innovative approaches.
Q1. What is a Contingency Learning Plan?
A contingency learning plan is a temporary plan describing changes to a student’s IEP that are necessary to protect health and safety during the pandemic and provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Although contingency learning plans are not contemplated or required by IDEA, the CDE recommends that IEP teams consider such a plan to navigate the uncertainties related to COVID-19 for the reasons explained below.
Q2. Anticipating that some schools may offer only remote or hybrid instruction to begin the 2020-21 school year, should a student’s IEP be based on the services and instructional options available under normal operating conditions or
those available under health and safety restrictions necessitated by the pandemic?
A student’s initial or annual IEP should be developed based on the student’s individualized needs in contemplation of the full instructional options, special education, supplementary aids/services, and related services that are available during normal operating conditions. An IEP based on restrictions or changes in service delivery that are necessary to protect health and safety during the pandemic, rather than one based on a student’s individualized needs, would be inconsistent with IDEA.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that schools provide eligible students with disabilities a free appropriate public education (FAPE) by providing special education and related services individually tailored to meet the student’s unique needs and provided in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP) developed according to IDEA’s detailed procedural requirements. Because there have been no waivers or changes to the relevant IDEA requirements, the IEP team must develop the IEP based on student-specific data and requisite considerations, including, among others, the strengths of the student, parental concerns for enhancing their child’s education, the results of the initial or most recent evaluation, and the academic, developmental, and functional needs of the student, and special factors (such as whether the child needs assistive technology devices and services).
Ensuring compliance with IDEA should not, however, prevent any school from offering educational programs and services through remote or virtual instruction. Indeed, “school districts must remember that the provision of FAPE may include, as appropriate, special education and related services provided through distance instruction provided virtually, online, or telephonically,” and that “[m]any disability-related modifications and services may be effectively provided online.” Supplemental Fact Sheet (OSERS 3/21/20). As discussed in question 2 below, the IEP team may, but is not required to, develop a contingency learning plan that will describe how FAPE will be provided in a remote or hybrid-learning environment when in-person instruction is prohibited or limited as a result of the pandemic.
Q3. Should a student’s IEP be reviewed, revised, or amended to include a contingency learning plan that will describe how services will be provided in the event that restrictions on in-person instruction are imposed to protect health and safety?
Although an IEP should not be developed to accommodate health-related restrictions on in-person instruction, the IEP team may, but is not required to, create a contingency learning plan for a student that could be implemented during school closures and/or disruptions to in-person instruction due to the pandemic. “Such 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.” Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus 2019 Outbreak (OSEP 3/2020). Consistent with the most recent OSEP guidance, an IEP team may revise or amend a student’s IEP to include a contingency learning plan to address student’s disability-related needs and challenges with remote learning, as well as describe any changes to the delivery of services.
Given the evolving nature of this unprecedented health crisis, schools may want to consider the use of contingency learning plans in the event that there is a resurgence of the virus, including local outbreaks, and in the event that a student becomes infected and must be quarantined. For some students, the change in learning environment from school to home may present significant challenges to learning that require a meaningful discussion with parents to develop a plan to address barriers unique to the student and their remote learning environment. By developing and including a contingency learning plan in the IEP, parents and educators/providers have the opportunity to agree on the circumstances that would trigger the use of the plan and the specific services that would be provided during that time. Everyone would then know what to expect. Because the situation may change abruptly, as it did at the end of the 2019-20 school year, having an agreed to plan in place would help ensure continuity of learning.
Schools may convene an IEP team meeting, or propose an IEP amendment without a team meeting, to develop a contingency learning plan as a way to address student-specific challenges related to distance learning and the suspension or disruption of in-person instruction. Parents may also request an IEP meeting or propose an IEP amendment to address these concerns.
While it may not be practicable for a school to review/revise/amend every IEP to include a contingency learning plan, the CDE recommends that schools use upcoming annual IEP meetings as an opportunity to have a discussion about the student-specific successes and challenges with the most recent period of remote learning. The CDE also recommends that schools prioritize IEP team discussions about contingency learning plans for students who do not have upcoming annual reviews and could not access or benefit from remote instruction during the 2019-20 suspension of in-person instruction.
Notably, IDEA has long required IEP review and revision for a student exhibiting changes in disability-related needs or failing to make expected progress. This requirement applies regardless of whether the changes in need are related, in whole or in part, to conditions created by the pandemic. Accordingly, an IEP team must review and revise the IEP for any student who is not participating in general or special education, unable to use or access alternative instruction, and/or exhibiting different academic, developmental, or functional needs due to changes in the learning environment and provision of services.
Q4. Should schools consider developing a contingency learning plan if the child’s parents choose remote/online learning even though the school is able to provide in-person instruction that will best meet the child’s IEP needs?
If a parent chooses an online program, due to potential health and safety concerns, and the exact type and amount of services identified in the IEP cannot reasonably be provided in that program and/or the IEP team believes that in-person instruction is necessary to confer FAPE, the IEP team should develop a contingency learning plan to describe the services that will be delivered in the online program. In addition, the school should provide parents with prior written notice to communicate the necessary changes in service delivery, the reason for the changes, and identify the services that are available should the parent choose in-person instruction. Although the determination of when prior written notice is required depends on the particular facts and circumstances, OSEP encourages schools to “ensure that parents are fully informed of how their child’s special education and related services needs are addressed during remote learning.” Q & A on Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B Procedural Safeguards in the current COVID-19 Environment (OSEP 6/30/20).
Q5. When developing a contingency learning plan, what should the IEP team consider?
To ensure that FAPE is being provided consistent with the need to protect health and safety, the IEP team should consider developing a contingency learning plan that: (1) provides the special education and related services identified on the student’s IEP to the greatest extent practicable; (2) ensures continued access to the general education curriculum; and (3) prioritizes/identifies those services most likely to enable the student to make progress on their IEP goals. Input from parents will be essential in developing a contingency learning plan that considers the student’s specific home learning environment, including access and use of technology, as well as a shared understanding of how the student’s disability impacts learning at home.
CDE therefore recommends that IEP teams consider the following factors when developing a contingency learning plan:
- What circumstances would trigger implementation of the contingency learning plan?
- What circumstance would trigger a return to the services identified in the IEP?
- What successes and challenges did the student experience during the SY 2019-20 closures? For example:
- How long was the student able to sustain attention when using a computer?
- Was the student's internet connection and Wi-Fi adequate to enable remote learning during past school closures?
- What technology might the student need in a future remote learning situation?
- What other supports and services might the student need to access remote learning?
- Which IEP goals are of the highest priority? For example, which goals are most critical to ensuring:
- access and progress in the general education curriculum;
- safety skills, such as goals related to elopement, self-regulation, and self-stimulatory behavior;
- maintenance of academic or functional skills to mitigate regression/loss of skills; and
- maintenance of social-emotional skills and functioning to prevent placement in a more restrictive setting when normal operations resume.
- What services can be provided remotely and are most likely to ensure progress on IEP goals that have been identified as high priority?
- For schools providing a hybrid of in-person and remote instruction, what services/instruction should be provided in-person to ensure progress on IEP goals?
- How will progress on IEP goals be collected and evaluated?
- How will the provision of services be documented?
- What parent counseling and training (i.e., assisting parents in understanding the special needs of their child, providing parents with information about child development, and helping parents to acquire the necessary skills that will allow them to support the implementation of their child's IEP) is required as a related service, necessary for the child to benefit from special education, to:
- access/use technology;
- understand how their child’s disability impacts learning in the remote and home environment;
- provide positive behavioral intervention and supports, when appropriate; and
- monitor/evaluate the effectiveness of the contingency learning plan?
- How will the school communicate with parents to evaluate effectiveness of the plan and respond to parent and student concerns?
Q6. When developing a contingency learning plan, what key components should be included?
Although the IDEA does not contemplate or require the development of a contingency learning plan, the CDE recommends that such a plan describe the specific circumstances that would trigger implementation of the contingency learning plan and sufficiently describe changes to the following key components of the IEP:
- Present levels of academic and functional performance (PLAAFP). In addition to the PLAAFP statement in the IEP, the contingency learning plan should also address how the student’s disability impacts learning in the remote learning environment.
- Annual IEP goals. In addition to the annual goals described on the IEP, the contingency learning plan should identify goals that have been identified as high priority and goals that may not be workable due to the remote learning environment. This section should also describe any adjustments to the measurement of IEP goals, including methods/sources for data collection, based on the remote learning environment.
- Progress monitoring on IEP goals. In addition to a description of how progress will be reported to parents, the contingency learning plan should describe what and how data, to evaluate progress towards IEP goals, will be collected and tracked.
- Service delivery statement. Any changes to the special education and related services described on the IEP, including changes to type, frequency, and delivery/provision of services should be clearly described so that families know what to expect. This section should also include a description for how the provision of services will be documented.
- Accommodations: Any changes to accommodations necessary to ensure the student’s access to instruction and academic materials during remote learning should be identified and clearly described.
- Secondary transition services. For transition age youth, any considerations or changes related to the student’s secondary transition program and services should be clearly described.
Q7. If a student’s IEP is developed, revised, or amended to include a contingency learning plan, is prior written notice required?
Prior written notice (PWN) must be provided to the parents of a child with a disability before the school proposes or refuses to make a change to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of FAPE to the child. In this situation, the contingency learning plan was developed to address temporary changes in the delivery of services that were necessary to protect health and safety during a pandemic. These temporary changes are not driven by the disability-related needs of the student; rather, the changes are based on the school or district-wide need to prioritize health and safety. Therefore, any contingency learning plan developed in accordance with the IEP does not constitute a material change in services or a substantial change in placement and would not require PWN. That said, OSEP encourages schools to “ensure that parents are fully informed of how their child’s special education and related services needs are addressed during remote learning.” Q & A on Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B Procedural Safeguards in the current COVID-19 Environment (OSEP 6/30/20).
If, however, the student’s IEP is revised to address changing needs or a lack of expected progress, the school must issue prior written notice because this would constitute a change to the provision of FAPE. Among other requirements, PWN must provide an explanation for why the school proposes or refuses to take the action, a description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report used by the district as a basis for the action, and a description of other options the IEP team considered and the reasons why those options were rejected.
Q1: What are education records?
Education records are “those records that are: (1) [d]irectly related to a student; and (2) [m]aintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.” A record means any information recorded in any way, including but not limited to handwriting, print, computer media, video or audio tape, film, microfilm, and microfiche.
Q2: May parents inspect and review their child’s education records?
Yes. One of the procedural safeguards afforded to parents under the IDEA is the right to inspect and review their child’s education records. Accordingly, a school district “must permit parents to inspect and review any education records relating to their children that are collected, maintained, or used by the agency.” A district must comply with a request from a parent to review his or her child’s education records “without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP,” and in no case more than 45 days after the request.
Q3: What if a parent requests to inspect and review a child’s education records while school buildings are closed due to COVID-19?
If a parent asks to inspect and review a child’s education records while school buildings are closed during the pandemic, the school and the parent should work together to identify mutually agreeable options for access to the education records. For example, the school could provide the parent with the requested information from the child’s records via email, a secure on-line portal or postal mail until school reopens.
Q1: What are extended school year services?
Extended school year services are defined as special education and related services that are provided beyond the normal school year and in accordance with the student’s IEP, at no cost to the parents. ESY services are only provided when a student’s IEP Team makes an individualized determination that the services are necessary for the provision of FAPE. ESY services are appropriate when the body of evidence demonstrates that the student will experience a severe loss of skills or knowledge that will significantly jeopardize the educational benefit gained during the regular school year.
Q2: How might the suspension of in-person instruction due to COVID-19 impact extended school year Extended School Year (ESY) services?
For students who have already been determined eligible for ESY, the school district should –to the greatest extent possible– provide the ESY services identified in the student’s IEP. Recognizing that exceptional circumstances may affect how ESY services are provided, FAPE may include special education and related services provided through distance instruction deemed reasonable and appropriate for a specific student, in consultation with parents, which may include services that are provide virtually, online, telephonically, and through paper and pencil tasks. If ESY services were unable to be provided during the summer due to COVID-19, districts should consider providing them during the normal school year, such as during school breaks or vacations where appropriate.
For students who have not yet been determined eligible for ESY, the school district should make a good faith effort to proceed with making the annual determination as to whether a specific student is eligible for ESY services. Recognizing that exceptional circumstances may affect the data normally used to make this determination, the CDE encourages school districts to use available and existing data, including prior eligibility for ESY, to answer the guiding questions and address the predictive factors described in CDE’s ESY Guidelines Manual when determining eligibility.
Specific to COVID-related circumstances, the IEP Team should also examine the effect of the suspension of in-person learning on the student’s progress toward their IEP goals. Providing appropriate ESY services may reduce the need for compensatory education services when schools return to normal operations, particularly for students for whom the suspension of in-person instruction has had a significant impact.
Q1: How may IDEA Part B funds be used to support special education students during the suspension of in person learning?
IDEA Part B funds may be used for activities that directly relate to providing, and ensuring the continuity of, special education and related services to children with disabilities. In using Part B funds to ensure continuity, it will be essential that the AU can evidence how these expenditures supported special education students in accessing their IEP services while in person learning was not possible.
See IDEA Allowable Use Guidelines for guiding questions for determining costs that may be charged to IDEA Part B, along with a list of commonly requested costs and their allowability.
Q2: Since there will be unanticipated costs associated with current suspension of in person learning that are not aligned with the AU’s original narrative and budget, will narratives and budgets need to be updated to reflect these changes?
Narratives may need to be updated if cost items are not already in the narrative. For example, if additional unanticipated costs are for instructional supplies, but instructional supplies are already in the narrative, then an update is not required. However, the budgeted amount for instructional supplies may not reflect the amount that is now required due to the unanticipated costs, so a budget update may be necessary. To inquire about narrative updates contact Kim Boylan (Boylan_K@cde.state.co.us). To inquire about budget updates please contact Evan Davis (Davis_E@cde.state.co.us).
Q3: If an AU reduces the local or state and local special education spending for FY 2020-2021 due to reductions in expenditures (especially salary and benefit costs) because of COVID-19, would the pandemic be considered an exception under IDEA maintenance of effort (MOE) compliance?
At this point, CDE does not have any additional guidance from the OSEP, so under IDEA Maintenance of Effort, the non-voluntary reduction of staff is not considered an exception. At this time, there is no waiver for MOE compliance. We will be closely monitoring any fiscal guidance coming from the USDE.
Q1: Is an IEP meeting or amendment required in response to any of the Governor’s executive orders directing all P-12 school districts and the Charter School Institute (CSI) to close school buildings to normal in-person instruction?
No. CDE is not recommending that schools systematically complete IEP meetings or amendments in response to any of the Governor’s executive orders requiring the suspension of in-person learning for all IDEA-eligible students with disabilities. As the state and national response to COVID-19 changes, CDE may provide additional guidance to address a long-term suspension of in-person learning.
Q2: Are schools expected to complete annual IEP reviews during the suspension of in person learning?
Yes. IEPs must be reviewed annually. Parents and the IEP Team may agree to conduct IEP meetings through alternate means such as videoconferencing or conference telephone calls. However, the IEP amendment process cannot be used in place of the annual IEP review meeting itself.
Q3: What happens if an IEP Team member is not able to attend an IEP meeting?
A specific member of the IEP Team is not required to attend an IEP meeting, in whole or in part, if the parent and the district agree, in writing, that the member's attendance is not necessary because the member's area of the curriculum or related services is not being modified or discussed in the meeting. Excusal in whole or in part from the IEP meeting is also possible for a specific IEP Team member whose area of the curriculum or related services is being modified or discussed if: (a) the parent, in writing, and the district consent to the excusal and (b) the member submits, in writing to the parent and the IEP team, input into the development of the IEP prior to the meeting. For more information on the IEP Team member excusal process, consult the CDE's IEP Procedural Guidance.
Preschool Special Education and Child Find COVID-19 FAQ Page
All FAQs related to Preschool Special Education and Child Find for children from birth through age 5, are located on the Preschool through 3rd Grade Office Hours Questions and Answers COVID-19 web page.
Q1: What is the purpose of issuing a prior written notice (PWN)?
A PWN must be provided to the parents of a child with a disability before the school proposes to make a change to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of FAPE to the child. A PWN is also provided if the school refuses to initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of FAPE to the child. Among other requirements, PWN must provide an explanation of why the school proposes or refuses to take the action, a description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report used by the district as a basis for the action, and a description of other options the IEP team considered and the reasons why those options were rejected. With parental agreement, a district may provide a parent with a PWN through e-mail.
Q2: Are prior written notices (PWNs) required in response to any of the Governor’s executive orders directing all P-12 school districts and the Charter School Institute (CSI) to close school buildings to normal in-person instruction?
No. CDE is not recommending that schools systematically provide a PWN to all IDEA-eligible students with disabilities in response to any of the Governor’s executive orders requiring the suspension of in-person learning.
Q3: Are there circumstances related to the suspension of in-person instruction that might require prior written notice (PWN)?
Yes. There are student-specific circumstances that require issuance of PWN. The guidance at Question 2 indicates only that schools should not automatically issue PWN for all IDEA-eligible students with disabilities solely based on the transition from in-person instruction to remote instruction.
However, schools must still make an individualized determination as to whether the suspension of in-person instruction has resulted in a change to placement or the provision of FAPE. Changes to the frequency, amount, or duration of specialized instruction or related services would require PWN because such changes directly concern the provision of FAPE. Although the determination of when PWN is required depends on the particular facts and circumstances, OSEP encourages schools to “ensure that parents are fully informed of how their child’s special education and related services needs are addressed during remote learning.” Q & A on Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B Procedural Safeguards in the current COVID-19 Environment (OSEP 6/30/20).
Q1:Should schools continue to monitor progress on IEP goals during the suspension of in-person learning?
Yes. Schools should make reasonable, good faith efforts to continue to collect and report progress on IEP goals to parents consistent with the schedule identified on the student’s IEP, even in situations where the school district has decided not to provide report cards. Providing periodic progress reports to parents ensures that they are informed of their child’s progress and can meaningfully participate in IEP team decisions about their child’s educational program, including whether the IEP is reasonably calculated to ensure progress. Progress monitoring data will also be important information to consider in determining whether compensatory education services are required for a particular student when in-person learning resumes.
Q2:How should schools monitor progress during the suspension of in-person learning?
Parents and other IEP Team members should collaborate and partner to identify flexible data collection strategies that can be used to track progress. These might include having the student take an informal performance assessment, sending an assessment home for the student to complete and return, or having the student send assignments/work samples to the educator (via mail, email, or online platform such as Google docs). Consider also how to gather input from others on work completed prior to, and during, the suspension of in-person learning, including information from families.
If the amount of progress was unable to be determined, or work on the annual goal could not be provided due to the suspension of in-person learning, this information should be conveyed to the parent in the progress report.
Q1: Are administrative units (AUs) required to provide FAPE during the suspension of in-person learning?
Yes. AUs must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those individuals providing specialized instruction and related services. Recognizing that exceptional circumstances may affect how educational services are provided, FAPE may include special education and related services provided through distance instruction deemed reasonable and appropriate for a specific student, in consultation with parents, which may include services that are provided virtually, online, telephonically, and through paper and pencil tasks.
Distance instruction must be accessible to students with disabilities. See Fact Sheet: Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Schools While Protecting the Civil Rights of Students (March 16, 2020); OCR Short Webinar on Online Education and Website Accessibility (March 16, 2020); Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Outbreak (March 12, 2020); Fact Sheet: Impact of COVID-19 on Assessments and Accountability under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (March 12, 2020); and Letter to Education Leaders on Preventing and Addressing potential discrimination associated with COVID-19 (March 4, 2020).
Q2: Is an AU required to continue to provide services to students with disabilities during a school closure caused by a COVID-19 outbreak?
If schools are closed and no educational services are being provided to the general student population, the AU would not be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same time. If the school continues to provide educational services to the general student population during a school closure, it must ensure that students with disabilities have access to the same educational opportunities and FAPE. This means that –to the greatest extent possible– the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP should be provided. Once school reopens, the AU must make every effort to provide special education and related services consistent with the child’s IEP. In addition, the AU would need to make an individualized determination as to whether compensatory services are needed to address regression or loss of skills because of the closure. CDE recognizes the questions surrounding compensatory education services and will work with both AUs and other educational stakeholders to develop more specific guidance as additional information becomes available.
Q3: In the event of school closure, how might the AU provide educational services to students with disabilities?
As noted above, if the district provides educational services to the general student population, the AU must consider ways to ensure that continuing educational activities are also accessible to students with disabilities. Educational services should strive to include equitable access to instruction for all students. Equitable access does not require that all students receive instruction in the same format (e.g., online instruction). AUs should consider the individual learning needs of students in determining how to best meet individual needs.
Q1: Are the timelines for initial evaluations waived due to the suspension of in person learning?
At this time, there are no waivers for initial evaluation timelines. As a result, AUs are encouraged to complete evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessment in a timely manner. The AU may need to seek consent for an initial evaluation when school building operations return to normal at a future date. The CDE will work with both AUs and other educational stakeholders to develop specific guidance around procedures for ensuring the completion of sufficiently comprehensive initial evaluations when it is not feasible due to measures required to protect the health and safety of students and school staff.
Q2: Will the timelines for reevaluation be waived due to the suspension of in person learning?
At this time, there are no waivers for reevaluation timelines. A reevaluation for each child with a disability must be conducted at least every three years, unless the parents and the public agency agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary. As noted above, AUs are encouraged to work with parents to reach mutually agreeable extensions of time. Any agreement to extend the timeline for the completion of the three-year reevaluation should be well documented by the AU and shared with the parent.
In addition, AUs are reminded that a reevaluation may be conducted through a review of existing data, and this review may occur without a meeting and without obtaining parental consent, unless it is determined additional assessments are needed. Reevaluations that require additional assessments but do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place during the suspension of in-person learning, if the parents consent.
Decisions to dismiss a student from special education services should not be determined due to an inability to complete a comprehensive reevaluation. If a comprehensive evaluation is not possible due to the suspension of in person learning, the AU should continue to provide special education and related services to the greatest extent possible until the necessary assessments can safely be completed and eligibility can be properly determined. The AU should not determine that a student is no longer eligible based on a reevaluation that is not sufficiently comprehensive.
Q3: May a district accept an electronic or digital signature as parental consent for an initial evaluation, reevaluation, or the initial provision of special education and related services?
Yes. Due to COVID-19, it may not be possible to obtain a parent’s signed, written consent in-person. In developing appropriate safeguards for using electronic or digital signatures during the pandemic, a district may determine that a “signed and dated written consent” may include a record and signature in electronic form that (1) identifies and authenticates a particular person as the source of the consent and (2) indicates such person’s approval of the information contained in the electronic consent.
School districts must obtain informed consent from the parent before conducting an initial evaluation and a reevaluation, subject to certain exceptions, and before the initial provision of special education and related services to the child. Consent must be voluntary on the part of the parent. Consent means the parent has been fully informed of and agrees in writing to the activity for which his or her consent has been requested.
Q1: What is tele-practice?
Tele-practice is the use of telecommunications to deliver services by special service providers (SSPs) in an educational setting which connects providers to students through technology for assessment, intervention, and consultation.
Q2: Is the use of tele-practice permitted for providing services to students with disabilities in Colorado public schools?
The use of tele-practice by SSPs in Colorado public schools, state operated facilities and approved facility schools, including day treatment programs, is not prohibited by Colorado statute. Services should be consistent with the goals and objectives outlined in the student’s IEP and services delivered through tele-practice may count as IEP minutes. Any required supervision of an assistant, such as a speech language pathologist–assistant, would still apply. Schools utilizing tele-practice should carefully adhere to their local policies governing data privacy and security.
Q3: Can Medicaid be billed for services delivered through tele-practice?
For information regarding billing Medicaid for tele-practice service, please contact the School Health Services Program at the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. The School Health Services Program may be reached at 303-866-6328. IEP services should not be delayed due to questions around Medicaid billing.
Q1. What is special transportation?
Special transportation is a related service that enables a child with a disability to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) as described in the individualized education program (IEP) of the child. As such, the child’s IEP team is charged with making an individualized determination as to whether this service is necessary for the child to access and benefit from special education. Not every student eligible for special education will require special transportation services to receive FAPE.
Q2. Have the requirements for the provision of special transportation for special education students changed due to COVID-19 pandemic?
No. The requirements under Individuals with Education Act (IDEA) and the Exceptional Students Education Act (ECEA) for the determination and provision of special transportation services remain the same.
Q3. Are there special considerations regarding special transportation services as students return to in-person learning?
Yes. As students begin to return to schools for in-person learning, AUs should consider the following for special education students receiving special transportation: (1) the most current guidance/requirements from local and state health departments; (2) IDEA and ECEA requirements regarding the provision of special transportation as a related service; and (3) the individual needs of the student on a child-by-child basis (e.g., health risks, length of time on the bus, needed heath and/or behavioral supports, specialized equipment needs). AUs should avoid developing blanket policies regarding the provision of special transportation services.
Q4. Is it permissible to reimburse the parent of child who normally receives special transportation service if the parent agrees to provide the transportation?
Yes. If the parents and the school agree to the parent providing transportation services, then the parent may be reimbursed. However, if the parent is unable or unwilling to provide transportation services, then the AU would be required to ensure the provision of these services.
Q1: Does CDE anticipate that the U.S. Department of Education (USDoE) will waive any of the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?
On March 27, 2020, Congress passed, and the President signed the CARES Act that requires the U.S. Secretary of Education write a report with information regarding flexibility that might be necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this point, CDE does not have any additional information regarding what waivers may be granted. Please check this Q & A document for future updates regarding potential waivers. It is currently the CDE’s understanding that Congress will have to take action in order to implement any waivers to IDEA.
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