Is an LEA (Catoosa Public Schools) required to continue to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with disabilities during a school closure caused by a COVID-19 outbreak?
The school/district is generally not required to provide services to the affected students eligible for special education services during that same period of time (See OSEP Letter to Pergament, December 2013). This general standard is especially true in cases where the school district will still provide the required minimum of school days. Further, if a district does not make any changes to their calendar and does not provide the required 1,080 hours or 180 days, said district may need to provide compensatory services to students on an IEP in order to ensure FAPE.
When educational opportunities are provided to the general student population during a school closure, students with disabilities will also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE. To the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability will be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP developed under IDEA. Teachers, therapists, process coordinators, etc. will be working to provide specialized services during this time of closure to the “greatest extent possible.” Services will look vastly different than those which students receive on a daily basis while attending school. Your child’s special edcuation teacher will be in contact with you to discuss a plan for service delivery. Please understand that we will do our best to provide guidance and services within reason, due to the uniqueness of a distance learning via a device or over the phone.
May an IEP Team consider a distance learning plan in a child’s IEP as a contingency plan in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak that requires the school’s closure?
Yes. The IEP team may, but is not required to, include distance learning plans in a child’s IEP that could be triggered and implemented during a selective closure due to a COVID-19 outbreak. 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. Creating a contingency plan before a COVID-19 outbreak occurs gives the child’s service providers and the child’s parents an opportunity to reach agreement as to what circumstances would trigger the use of the child’s distance learning plan and the services that would be provided during the dismissal.
How will students be provided with special education and related services if school attendance is virtual?
When school attendance is virtual, students on IEPs will be provided with materials in the same manner as general education students and have access to instruction via a variety of technological (Zoom, Google Meet, UNIQUE online instructional tools and resources) and traditional options. Modifications and accommodations, as noted in student IEPs, will be provided to the extent possible and necessary, based on the type of instruction.
Specific materials will be provided, as appropriate, for making progress on IEP goals. Our goal is to continue to make progress on your child’s IEP Goals. This might be difficult in some cases due to the type of services that can be offered during this difficult time.
Related service providers will provide materials where possible. Some students will require services to be made up upon return due to the nature of the services. We are aware that during this unique time, some compensatory services may need to be provided once we are through this pandemic event.
Will homebound instruction for a student with COVID-19 look different than it does for other students who receive homebound and how will you coordinate these services?
If students are diagnosed with COVID-19, alternative methods of instruction will be used. For students who receive homebound instruction, instruction may be delivered virtually as appropriate. If needed, due to medical needs or an inability to participate fully in virtual instruction, makeup services may be scheduled upon a return to normal school schedule. Student safety is our greatest concern. We will work to meet the homebound needs to the greatest extent possible, while doing our best to not further spread the virus to those are or may already be compromised.
For students who may be diagnosed with COVID-19 who also have a disability, are there FAPE related considerations with bullying that the student may have experienced or may experience after the pandemic is over, and if so, how will these be addressed?
Staff will continue to follow Board policy and procedures as needed to support students.
When will I know when and how services will be delivered to my child?
Your child’s case manager will be in contact with you very soon to discuss when and how services will be delivered. Monday, April 6, will be a stressful day for students, parents, and staff alike. We will do the best we can to serve your child and you, as we understand that you are your child’s first teacher! Tuesday, April 7, will be better than the day before, and with each passing day teachers will refine their practice, maintain and build new relationships, and forge ahead through this crisis by communicating with you directly.
How would a school closure due to COVID-19 impact IEP and Evaluation timelines?
IEP annual due dates may not be adjusted, are required to be reviewed at least annually and the OSDE cannot waive these federal requirements for IEPs. A change in the school calendar will not affect or extend the due date of an IEP.
Initial Evaluations must be completed within 45 school days of receiving an initial parent consent for evaluation. If the school calendar is changed, the due date for the completion of Initial Evaluations will change.
Re-evaluations must be conducted every three years. A change in the school calendar will not affect or extend the due date of a reevaluation. This does not prevent a re-evaluation from being conducted prior to the three-year due date and therefore adjusting the next due date.
For children with disabilities transitioning from SoonerStart and determined eligible for services under the IDEA Part B, IEPs must still be in place on or before their third birthday.
Scheduling IEP meetings is a local determination. The OSDE expects all districts to comply with requirements to timely convene IEP meetings for students. Should a district need to convene an IEP meeting, the OSDE recommends that the district deem these services to be essential administrative and proceed in accordance with the guidance below.
In the current context and climate, schools are encouraged to avail themselves of the opportunity to ensure parent participation at meetings via alternate means, including telephone or videoconference, which are allowable under IDEA and corresponding regulations. 34 CFR § 300.322.
If an evaluation of a student with a disability requires a face-to-face assessment or observation, the evaluation must be delayed until school reopens. Evaluations and re-evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place while schools are closed, provided the student’s parent or legal guardian consents. These same principles apply to similar activities conducted by appropriate personnel for a student with a disability who has a plan developed under Section 504, or who is being evaluated under Section 504.
What if my child attend’s an outside placement which is not in session?
Catoosa Public Schools will work with you to provide appropriate access and materials either through that outside placement or through district provided resources. This will be on a case-by-case basis.
Is a school closure a change of placement?
If the exclusion is a temporary emergency measure (generally 10 consecutive school days or fewer), the provision of services such as instructional telephone calls, homework packets, internet-based lessons and other available distance-based learning approaches is not considered a change in placement. During this time period, a child’s parent or other IEP team member may request an IEP meeting to discuss the potential need for services if the exclusion is likely to be of long duration (generally more than 10 consecutive school days).
For long-term exclusions, an LEA must consider placement decisions under the IDEA’s procedural protections of 34 CFR §§ 300.115 – 300.116 regarding the continuum of alternative placements and the determination of placements. Under 34 CFR § 300.116, a change in placement must be made by a group of persons, including the parents and others knowledgeable about the child and the placement options. If the placement group determines that the child meets established high-risk criteria and, due to safety and health concerns, the child’s needs could be met through homebound instruction, then under 34 CFR § 300.503(a)(1), the public agency must issue a prior written notice proposing the change in placement. A parent who disagrees with this prior written notice retains all of the due process rights included in 34 CFR §§ 300.500-300.520. For children with disabilities protected by Section 504 who are dismissed from school during an outbreak of coronavirus because they are at high risk for flu complications, compliance with the procedures described above and completion of any necessary evaluations of the child satisfy the evaluation, placement and procedural requirements of 34 CFR §§ 104.35 and 104.36. The decision to dismiss a child based on their high risk for influenza complications must be based on the individual needs of the child and not on perceptions of the their needs based merely on stereotypes or generalizations regarding the disability in question.
Who do I contact if I have a question or an issue with child’s services?
Your child’s special education teacher is your primary contact during this time period of school closure. The next line in communicating issues will be the process director who oversees your child’s IEP process, Paula Haueter (firstname.lastname@example.org). Building administrators are also here to help.