Planning To Reopen - Our Schools, DESE FAQ Special Education Qs 5-8
The way in which our children learn and our educators teach to begin this school year will be will challenging for both to say the least. Regardless of the reopening model chosen by your school district, all schools will be providing remote learning to some extent. Parents whose children require special education in the COVID-19 environment may be struggling with how these necessary changes may impact the ability of school districts to meet their children's needs. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has put together a FAQ to help parents navigate these uncharted waters.
Please note supplemental information can be found on the Department's website at DESE COVID-19 Information and Resources.
NOTE: COVID-19 is highly transmissible. Individuals should follow these universal precautions regardless of the extent of mitigation needed:
- Follow healthy hygiene practices
- Stay at home when sick
- Practice social distancing
- Use a cloth face covering (with some exceptions) in community settings when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
The current state of the COVID-19 pandemic is continually evolving. What is true today may not be tomorrow. At this time, the evidence suggests schools have not played a significant role in COVID-19 transmission and that children, particularly younger children, are less likely than adults to be infected with COVID-19.
As always, work with your local health officials to determine a set of strategies appropriate for your community’s situation.
(See our Planning to Reopen series of blogs for more information regarding CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA, Mass DESE, and OSHA safety requirements). To review the administration's reopening guidance from the state click here. To view Governor Baker's full report click here).
The Massachusetts DESE recommends that districts and schools select high quality, and subject areas.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Special Education Related Services, and Models of Learning
5) How can schools and districts notify and document the implementation of a student’s IEP if the delivery of services is different than described in the student’s IEP(i.e.,in circumstances where the school or district is providing services through an in-person, remote, or hybrid learning model that may look different than traditionally delivered due to COVID-19)?
Teachers or IEP liaisons should contact students’ parents/guardians as soon as possible to discuss how a given student’s IEP service will be delivered if different than described in the student’s IEP, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Using input from that discussion, teachers or liaisons must provide parents/guardians with written documentation containing specific information about how IEP services will be delivered promptly at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Examples of written documentation include the use of an N1,DESE’s sample “COVID-19 Special Education Learning Plan”, letter,or other means of written communication. Translations of this resource will be made available to schools and districts on DESE’s website.
This documentation should include how and where specialized services are being provided. If the remote model or remote portion of the hybrid model are being employed, this documentation should also include when the specialized services are being provided in remote. This documentation should be dated to reflect when services began. If plans change, revision dates should be added to the plan. This written documentation does not constitute an IEP amendment, and students retain stay-put rights through their IEP. Though parental consent is not required to implement the modified in-person, hybrid, or remote special education services plan, it is recommended for schools and districts to keep families informed of any changes in service delivery. Schools and districts can deliver written notification to families in multiple ways, e.g., U.S. mail, email, student information systems, or online communication platforms. Each communication should be in the primary language of the home, using interpreters and translating documents, when appropriate.
6) What types of services can be provided remotely?
The U.S. Department of Education (USED) has stated that the IDEA does not mandate specific methodologies. Where technology itself imposes a barrier to access or where educational materials simply are not available in an accessible format, educators may still meet their legal obligations by providing children with IEPs equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students. For example, if a teacher who has a blind student in her class is working from home and cannot distribute a document accessible to that student, she can distribute to the rest of the class an inaccessible document and, if appropriate for the student, read the document over the phone to the blind student or provide the blind student with an audio recording of a reading of the document aloud. The Department encourages parents/guardians, educators, and administrators to collaborate creatively to continue to meet the needs of students with IEPs. Consider practices such as distance instruction, tele-therapy and tele-intervention, meetings held on digital platforms, online options for data tracking, and documentation.
7) How can related services be provided during the suspension of in-person education?
Related services can be provided remotely to students in accordance with the guidelines of their respective professional boards. Schools and districts should document the provision of related services in their written notification to parents.This communication should be in the primary language of the home, using interpreters and translating documents, when appropriate.
8) If a school or district chooses a hybrid or remote model, how does this impact special education students who receive services in community-based settings and students who participate in inclusive concurrent enrollment programs at institutions of higher education?
Although in-person participation in community-based programs and inclusive concurrent enrollment programs at institutions of higher education may be limited at this time, schools and districts should make best efforts to develop plans collaboratively with community-based providers, colleges, parents/guardians, and students in order to allow students access to as much programming as possible during COVID-19. Current health and safety requirements must remain a priority when making decisions about the extent to which transition services may be provided in the community. However, it is highly recommended that in-person transition services resume as soon as it is safe to do so with the proper health and safety measures in place.
NOTE: According to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education areas of the school visited by the COVID-19 positive individual must be closed off and/or cleaned and disinfected. The area can be used 12 hours after cleaning/disinfecting has occurred.
While the administration continues to work with communities to implement best practices and protocols for reopening our schools we will continue to share with you guidance from the CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA, Mass EEC, Mass DESE, and OSHA and the Governor's office to follow as we prepare for the new school year.
Also, we at SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley know that not every community has access to the resources necessary to meet the strict cleaning guidelines to ensure a safe environment for our children. For those communities, we are here to help!
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The Disaster Remediation Teams at SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley are specialists in cleaning services and we adhere to the highest cleaning and sanitation standards. We are prepared to clean and disinfect your schools, according to protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We have years of experience in dealing with biological contaminants, and we will go beyond the scope of work of "normal daily cleaning". Call SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley today for a free consultation - (617) 332-9000.
All of us here at SERVPRO of Newton/Wellesley want you and your loved ones to stay safe and know that we will make it through this together! Rest assured, we will continue to do our best to keep you up-to-date and informed!