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Planning To Reopen - Our Schools, DESE FAQ Special Education Qs 9-14

9/9/2020 (Permalink)

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:

  1. Follow healthy hygiene practices
  2. Stay at home when sick
  3. Practice social distancing 
  4. 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 CDCEPAFDAMass EEAMass 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

9) What must schools and districts do to fulfill their responsibilities under IDEA equitable services?

IDEA equitable services requirements have not changed.Schools and districts remain responsible for all IDEA equitable services requirements, irrespective of whether the school or district is implementing an in-person, remote, or hybrid model of instruction and service delivery. Schools and districts should continue to engage in meaningful consultation with approved special education private school representatives and parents/guardians of parentally-placed private school students with disabilities, including parents/guardians of homeschool students, and include as part of consultation what, if any, changes in service delivery may be implemented in the new school year based on the instructional and service delivery model(s) implemented by the school or district.Consultation with the parents/guardians should be in the primary language of the home, using interpreters and translating documents, when appropriate.If changes are made to students’ service delivery, schools and districts must include those changes in the service plans developed in collaboration with students’ parents/guardians. As part of consultation, schools and districts should also discuss whether any unspent FY 20 funds will be carried over into FY 21.  

10) Should a school or district continue to provide in-person services to students with disabilities that have been prioritized for in-person instruction if their districts have received a designation of "red" based on cases per 100,000?

If a district receives a red designation for a high average daily case rate in the Department of Public Health’s weekly update, the decision to continue to provide in-person instruction to vulnerable students (including those with disabilities, English learners, and students who have not engaged with remote learning) needs to be made at the local level. Solely receiving a red designation does not in any way automatically mean that all in-person services have to be discontinued. In fact, DESE recommends that districts continue to provide as much in-person instruction as possible to vulnerable students using the key safety protocols outlined in our reopening guidance.

11) Will all students with IEPs be eligible for compensatory services because of the disruption of in-person instruction and service delivery from March 17 until the end of the 2020-2021 school year?

Whether a student is entitled to receive compensatory services because of the suspension of in-person instruction in the spring due to COVID-19, is a fact-specific and individualized determination to be made by the IEP Team. The Department has issued guidance on this topic. For more information, see COVID-19 Special Education Technical Assistance Advisory 2021-1.

12) If a student is presenting with behavior that requires them to be physically restrained and a staff member must restrain the student, should the student continue to wear a mask?

Schools and districts are required to implement preventive and proactive behavioral supports and interventions to prevent the need for a physical restraint. The Department maintains a commitment to the reduction of physical restraint in schools and reminds schools and districts that all relevant regulatory procedures, as outlined in 603 CMR 46.00, must be followed prior to, during, and subsequent to any physical restraint. If a student does need to be physically restrained, a mask should not be on the face of the student. If the student was wearing a mask prior to being placed in a physical restraint, the mask should be removed as soon as is practical and safe. Students in physical restraints should not wear masks, regardless of the behaviors they are exhibiting because masks may restrict airflow, preventing staff from effectively monitoring the student’s breathing, and the mask might be inhaled or swallowed by the student.

13) May homeschool students receive special education services delivered by the school or district, pursuant to the IEP?

Yes. Homeschool plans must be reviewed and approved in advance by the school or district, including the special education portion of the plan. Schools and districts are responsible for providing special education services to homeschool students pursuant to the IEP. Services may be provided in-person or through remote learning; communication with families is essential for understanding how services will be provided.This communication should be in the primary language of the home, using interpreters and translating documents, when appropriate.

Educational Resources

14) How can educators and administrators find resources to support remote and hybrid learning?

The Department has created and is continuously updating a spreadsheet with resources for educators and administrators, to assist them in their work with students and families.This spreadsheet can be found on the COVID-19 resources page of the Office of Special Education Planning and Policy Development (SEPP).

In addition, the Department provides information regarding special education guidance on the special education webpage. Other guidance issued by the Department can be found on the COVID-19 Guidance/On the Desktop Messages webpage.Nationally, USED has designated the National Center for Systemic Instruction (NCSI) as a resource hub for remotely-provided special education services and supports. NCSI’s resource library has been specifically created to share instructional resources and service delivery solutions.

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 CDCEPAFDAMass EEAMass EECMass 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!

Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned

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!

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