New U.S. Department of Education Q&A Guidance on Instruction to Children with Disabilities During COVID-19

On September 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education issued a guidance concerning implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for school age children during the COVID-19 pandemic. It emphasized that regardless of method of instruction – remote, in person, or hybrid, educational agencies are not relieved of their duties and must provide a free and appropriate public education.

    It addressed the following issues for the 2020-2021 School Year:

  • Annual IEP

The IEP team should meet to develop an annual IEP for the 2020-2021 school year that identifies how the special education and related services will be provided based on the student’s instruction environment. All required team members must be present.

  • Amendment IEP after Annual

If the annual IEP for the school year has been conducted, changes can be made through a written document to amend or modify the current IEP. The amendment cannot take the place of the annual IEP. The amendment IEP could be used to address how your Student’s IEP will be implemented during various learning environments.

  • Extended School Year Services During COVID-19:

A child’s entitlement to needed ESY services continues to apply even if schools and other facilities are closed due to COVID-19. If children did not receive their ESY services during the 2020 summer, educational agencies should consider providing ESY services during the normal school year, during school breaks or vacations where appropriate to the child’s needs.

  • Initial Evaluations Timelines

The initial evaluation for special education and related services must be conducted within 60 days of receiving parental consent of the evaluation. The Department seems to indicated that initial evaluations should still be conducted within applicable timelines regardless if closures by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Initial and Annual IEP Meetings

If in-person meetings are not able to be held,  it is possible to use alternative methods such as telephone or video conference calls if acceptable to the parent and other IEP Team meeting participants.

  • Reevaluations (Triennial IEPs)

Unless the parent and the public agency agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary, the triennial evaluations should be conducted.  The educational agency should investigate all appropriate assessment instructions and tools to determine if some can be administered or completed remotely during the pandemic, provided that evaluation of the child is based on personal observation. In addition, if a reevaluation is based solely on a review of existing evaluation data it must be sufficiently comprehensive.

The guidance can be found here:

https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/qa-provision-of-services-idea-part-b-09-28-2020.pdf

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