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Planning To Reopen - Our Schools, DESE FAQ Special Education Qs 36-39

9/17/2020 (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

Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)

36) Will districts continue to receive referrals to Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE)? 

Yes, districts should continue to accept referrals from families, caregivers, and Early Intervention (EI) programs, in accordance with Child Find requirements. EI programs will refer all children who are potentially eligible for ECSE and who will be turning 3. EI regulations require the EI program to make referrals at least 90 days before the child’s third birthday.

37) Do districts need to complete the eligibility process for children referred from EI? 

Districts must accept and act on referrals from EI providers. This includes attending the virtual Transition Planning Conference (TPC), reviewing existing and EI assessments, and conducting an evaluation of the child to determine if the child is eligible for special education services.

For districts that were unable to complete the eligibility process without a face-to-face assessment, an extension of EI services was made available for children who turned 3 between March 15, 2020 and August 31, 2020. For those students, EI services can continue until special education eligibility determination can be completed and the child has transitioned to special education, or until October 15, 2020. Because many districts may have been unable to conduct evaluations, convene IEP meetings, and initiate services by the child’s third birthday, and children may have been supported through this extension of EI services, districts can expect an increased number of children for whom they need to complete the eligibility determination process and an increased number of children needing special education services. District leaders should be prepared to complete the transition process, have completed assessments, and an IEP signed for this group of students by October 15, 2020.

38) How can schools and districts complete the eligibility process for young children if they cannot complete a face-to-face assessment?

Schools and districts are encouraged to consider any and all evaluation information that is already available, and conduct additional assessments that are needed, as appropriate for the child under consideration.Schools and districts should make a decision regarding the feasibility of completing the eligibility determination process on an individual basis. Use the following guide for each child to determine if the eligibility process can be completed. See above for further guidance related to assessments.

For some young children, face-to-face assessments will be necessary to determine eligibility. If assessments cannot be completed, and the child has been identified as potentially eligible for ECSE by Early Intervention providers, the following special considerations should be discussed with families:

  1. Provide learning opportunities in general education preschool, if available.
  2. Consult with Regional Consultation Program (RCP) specialists to provide resources to families and/or schools and districts.
  3. Connect with Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) grantees for families to receive supports and remote playgroup opportunities.
  4. Collaborate with local EI programs on how to support the transition. With concurrence from the family, EI programs may complete additional assessments that may facilitate the process for determining eligibility. The EI program may request a waiver from the DPH to support and prepare the family for the transition. The waiver is not intended for the continuation of Individuals Family Service Plan (IFSP) services after the child’s third birthday.

39) What are the service options for children who are transitioning from EI to ECSE?

After eligibility is determined, there are options for the provision of services.

  1. IEP teams can decide to:
    1. Continue the IFSP for one year after the child is found eligible for ECSE. Services are considered Part B services and are provided by local schools and districts.
    2. Contract with EI providers to provide services and to support EC transition.
  2. Write an IEP
    1. Your staff can provide services, or
    2. District, and EI staff can collaboratively provide services to support EC transition.
  3. Write a partial IEP and conduct an extended evaluation.

Additional resources are available from the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA), including information about eligibility determinations and transitions.

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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