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Home » About OSPI » News Releases and Statements » Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Guidance & Resources » Special Education Guidance for COVID-19

Special Education Guidance for COVID-19

If a district is not providing educational services to students during the closure, then there is not a requirement to provide special education services during the same time period. Districts will want to consider special education needs on a case-by-case basis during the closure to address health and safety needs of students with disabilities.

The page includes in-depth guidance related to, among other topics:

  • Providing services during the school closure
  • Communicating with parents and families
  • Continuing to hold eligibility, transition, or IEP meetings or child find screenings using distance technology
  • Safety Net and funding
  • Working with Non-Public Agencies
  • Extended School Year services
  • Compensatory services

 The U.S. Department of Education’s Q&A from March 12, 2020 is another helpful resource.

Q&A Provision of Services to Students with Disabilities During School Closures

This guidance is current as of March 24, 2020. This Q&A will be updated frequently to reflect current guidance as it is released, including the March 21, 2020 Supplemental Fact Sheet from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). Refer also to pages 4 through 9 of OSPI’s Bulletin 019-20 and this website for additional information regarding the provision of services to students with disabilities during school closures.

If you have questions, please email Glenna Gallo, Assistant Superintendent of Special Education, or call at 360-725-6075.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • If the district is not providing educational services to students during the closure, then there is not a requirement to provide special education services during the same time period. Districts will want to consider special education needs on a case-by-case basis during the closure to address health and safety needs of students with disabilities.
  • If the district continues providing education opportunities to students during the closure, this includes provision of special education and related services, too, as part of a comprehensive plan. This requirement ensures students with and without disabilities are treated equitably and is required by federal and state anti-discrimination laws, including Title II of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the IDEA. District leaders should consider the use of accessible distance technology, the use of small groups of students with disabilities and access to nondisabled peers, instructional phone calls, and other curriculum-based activities. The Special Education Technology Center, an-IDEA funded State Needs Project, has provided technical assistance. District staff and staff from other impacted agencies and facilities should be included in planning efforts, as they bring expertise regarding services to students with disabilities, which can be embedded through the district plan. There may be “exceptional circumstances” that could affect how a particular service is provided,[1] which may result in a later need to provide compensatory education.
  • Districts should communicate the expectation and plan to meet with Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams, including parents, when school resumes, to address student-specific needs resulting from the closure. This might include discussions of compensatory education and extended school year (ESY) services, made on a case-by-case basis. Any need for compensatory services related to school closure or inability to fully implement a student’s IEP will be addressed after school resumes. When educational services are provided, districts will want to collect progress data for IEP goals in order to inform parents and IEP teams and assist in compensatory service decisions later.
  • For students with special health care needs as identified by IEPs, 504 plans, health care plans, and the student’s parents, districts should address those needs on a case-by-case basis.
 

[1] Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak, U.S. Department of Education, March 12, 2020.

  • There is no defined or correct delivery method that will equitably meet the needs of all students. Districts need to be flexible and consider employing a variety of delivery options.
  • Districts should prioritize health and safety of students, staff, and communities. Districts should identify and acknowledge service delivery limitations, as well as the need for districts to “make every effort to fully implement a student’s IEP or 504 plan” once school resumes.[2] This requirement to “make every effort…” does not allow a district to decline all services to students with an IEP and only offer compensatory services at a later date.
  • As district leadership plans for rollout of educational services during school closures, they should consider, address, and communicate equity needs for students with disabilities (with IEPs and 504 plans), English learners, students from low-income families, those placed in-private facilities inside the state and in other states, those receiving preschool services, and those served in community school-to-post school transition programs, home/hospital placements, and state and county institutions.
  • Districts should understand that parents of students with IEPs are concerned about district plans and whether those plans consider or appropriately address the needs of their child.
    • Districts should consider the need and methods to provide proactive and ongoing communication with parents of students with disabilities. District should identify communication channels to and from parents and ensure there are real-time opportunities for questions and concerns to be responded to and needs addressed.
    • Districts should clarify their expectation and plan to meet with IEP teams, including parents, when school resumes to address student-specific needs resulting from the closure. This might include discussions of compensatory education and extended school year (ESY) services made on a case-by-case basis. Any need for compensatory services related to school closure or inability to fully implement a student’s IEP will be addressed after school closures end.

[2] Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak, U.S. Department of Education, March 12, 2020.

  • There is no prohibition against holding meetings at a school, conducting individual student assessments, or providing related services on a case-by-case basis, provided that appropriate social distancing methods are used. 
  • Districts should also consider ways to use distance technology (e.g., Zoom, conference calls) to the extent possible to provide child find, hold initial and annual IEP meetings, and/or evaluation/eligibility meetings, if staff and parents are available but not able to attend in person. Continuing to complete IEP and evaluation/eligibility meetings will help decrease the workload when school resumes. If staff and/or parents are not available or believe their participation is impacted by the lack of an in-person meeting, districts should document the reason and complete the activity in a timely manner following the ending of school closures. 
  • Districts may wish to create a template document that assists school staff in documenting decisions made, why timelines were exceeded, and documentation of participation and consent through temporary alternate methods, such as email or notes. Districts should not create a standard form that is not individualized and applied to all files and activities.
  • In planning for school closure and the potential distance delivery of educational services (including special education and related services), district and school staff will want to prioritize decisions and actions based on health and safety first, communication with staff and families, and then consider requirements of IDEA and Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 392-172A, including the need to update IEPs and provide WPN. 

  • If services are being provided by the district to select grade levels, then IEP services should also be provided to students in those grades to avoid discrimination under Section 504 and Title II. OSPI will soon provide additional information regarding the selection of specific grades to provide educational services to during school closures.

  • While there will be additional guidance coming related to childcare referenced in the Governor’s proclamation, childcare opportunities offered through the district should be considered for district children of all ages, including those who are most vulnerable and those with significant disabilities.

  • At this time, OSPI is not aware of the availability of additional funding and will share this question with state and federal leaders.

  • OSPI has an existing opportunity for districts to amend or update Safety Net submissions, as included in Bulletin B070-19, by May 8, 2020. OSPI will continue to monitor the situation and impact to districts and adjust the timeline as needed. Districts are encouraged to submit requests for extensions, if needed, in May.

  • At this time, there is no waiver from IDEA requirements, including IEP and eligibility timelines. Districts should continue to submit Safety Net applications and explain if timelines have been exceeded. 

  • As of March 12, 2020, Washington state has ended state assessments. If you have already performed some or all of the WA-AIM with a student or students, please submit to OSPI. 

  • There is no waiver from IDEA dispute resolution options and timelines, including state Citizen Complaints and Due Process Hearings. OSPI will continue to respond to submissions from parents, the community, and districts in a timely manner, and will consider whether extenuating circumstances demand changes in activities and timelines. In the event changes are needed, they will be documented and shared with involved parties.

  • School districts and NPAs should work together to communicate with families of a student placed at the NPA regarding learning resources and support that may be available during the school closure. The district and NPA are also encouraged to stay in communication about plans for addressing the effects of any school closure on an individual student’s needs for ongoing services once school resumes.

  • School districts are encouraged to allow students placed at an NPA to take advantage of any services being offered by the NPA. If an NPA has transitioned to online/remote service delivery due to the school closures, the NPA should (1) communicate these plans to the school district and (2) work together with the district to explain how a student placed at their school or facility can take advantage of the learning opportunities being offered. The NPA and school district can also begin making plans to address the effects of any transition to online/remote learning may have on an individual student’s needs for ongoing services.  
  • School districts will determine at a local level if online/remote services will be made available, taking under consideration the equity needs of students receiving special education. There is no requirement, however, for school districts to make services available to all students receiving special education if a small number of students are able to access services through an NPA.

  • School districts and NPAs should refer to the terms of their contract for services to determine how payments to retain the services of the NPA will proceed. This discussion may need include consideration of any online/remote services delivery options made available by an NPA during closure due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Payments made by school districts to NPAs during the period of school closure, as required under the contract, will be eligible for Safety Net.

  • The primary responsibility of school districts and residential out-of-state NPAs is to ensure the safety of the student. The school district and NPA should work together to contact the student’s family and discuss options with the family for the safest and most reasonable means of transporting the student back to Washington, in the event that it is needed.

  • An out-of-state NPA that remains open should continue providing services to a student placed at their school/facility and communicate these plans to school district. If an NPA remains open and the student placed at an NPA should require an extended absence due to the COVID-19 outbreak, then the NPA should be in communication with the school district about the student’s needs and the IEP must meet and determine whether the student is available from instruction and could benefit from services.  If the student does not receive services after an extended period of time (generally more than 10 consecutive days), the district must determine whether and to what extent compensatory services are needed[3].
     

    [3] Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak, U.S. Department of Education, March 12, 2020.

Additional Information

  • Special education correction of non-compliance (iGrants Form Package 442) – Local Educational Service District (ESD) staff are working with a number of identified districts to verify the correction of non-compliance described in the district’s Form Package 442. It is possible for this verification work to continue, since the verification could be completed through phone interviews, reviews of corrected documents via fax or Zoom, etc. However, if ESD staff need additional time to complete the verification work, they can request an extension to the June 1, 2020 deadline by contacting jennifer.story@k12.wa.us
  • Comprehensive, Coordinated Early Intervening Services (CCEIS) Plan – Districts who have been designated as having significant disproportionality can request an extension to the May 1, 2020 deadline for submitting the district’s CCEIS plan, if needed, by contacting jennifer.story@k12.wa.us.

Information and Resources from Outside OSPI