Special Education and the COVID-19 Coronavirus Crisis
On March 26, 2020, the Governor of Vermont ordered all schools serving children in grades pre-kindergarten through grade 12 to stay closed for the rest of the school year (2019-2020).
The governor’s order does not mean children stop learning. Schools have until April 13 to develop plans for providing remote educational and related services to the students in their districts. These plans will help keep students on track with their grade-level learning during this period of disruption. The Agency of Education (AOE) issued guidance to schools to help them in preparing their plans.
During the school closure, and no later than April 13, schools must continue to provide special education services to students with disabilities and to accommodate their learning needs. On March 27, the AOE issued guidance on the delivery of remote instruction for students with disabilities.
To ensure your child’s special needs are met during the school closure:
Before April 13, parents and schools should review the student’s individualized education program (IEP) to see how the school closure will affect the provision of special education and related services. This can happen remotely, by telephone or using a computer.
Students’ IEPs may need to be amended to reflect remote learning. This can happen without a meeting so long as both the parent and school agree on the changes.
It is not necessary to rewrite the student’s IEP if the parent and school agree on changes to the student’s IEP or 504 plan.
Parents should ask for a copy of the IEP amendment document.
The school must schedule an IEP team meeting if the parent and school do not agree on how to change the student’s IEP. Meetings can and should be held remotely. The school must send the parent prior written notice of any decisions it makes. Parents may still file administrative and due process complaints, although the current public health crisis may affect timing of decisions.
Parents should not agree to the provision of less IEP services than the IEP team originally agreed to. But, parents could agree to less frequent IEP services, or different methods of providing services, such as by phone or over the internet. The student’s IEP must still provide enough support so the student can make progress in their studies.
Parents should keep a record of the services their child receives during the school closure.
When students return to school, IEP teams will need to meet to make individualized determinations of the compensatory services a child may need.
On March 21, the U.S. Department of Education also updated its guidance to school districts to remind schools that, despite the closure, they are required to ensure that distance learning for students with disabilities is accessible and equally effective as that provided to students without disabilities.
If you have questions or problems with special education in Vermont, contact us for help.