The St. Louis Arc realizes that these are difficult and confusing times. Many parents / guardians are wrestling with what seem to be insurmountable obstacles related to special education services. The information below attempts to provide a basic overview of educational law as it pertains to COVID 19 closures or blended learning (part virtual / part in-person). As you work in partnership with your student’s school to navigate these unprecedented waters, we hope this information provides useful tools to enter into conversations. Additional resources can be found at the end. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.
- Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) must continue to be provided and related services must continue regardless of method in which the school district is delivering services. The educational needs of students must continue to be met by the school district, and special education services should continue.
- All students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) should have their plans amended as soon as possible to reflect their individual needs to be successful with anticipated distance or blended learning.
- IEP meetings can be held virtually, but all procedures still apply.
- All IEP’s should continue to be individualized based upon the student’s needs under distance learning.
- A Distance Learning Plan should be included in all IEP’s. Districts may use DESE’s model Form G (see link in Resources section below) or another format to include all required information. Special School District of St. Louis County is using their own Distance Learning Plan in place of DESE’s model Form G. A Distance Learning Plan outlines the necessary accommodations and modifications necessary for that student to succeed under Distance or Blended Learning platforms, as well as how goals will be addressed and how services will be provided. Other considerations for a Distance Learning Plan include:
- The frequency in which the Distance Learning Plan will be evaluated and revised based upon success of the student.
- The frequency of parent / guardian input into the Distance Learning Plan and the method used to obtain the feedback.
- All evaluations should resume, although the method used may be different. The same timelines are in effect for evaluations, but in rare circumstances timelines may be delayed if both the family and the school district agree to a delay.
To ensure for optimal student success, parents / guardians might consider the following:
- Remembering that you are a parent first! Your most important job is to love your child. Being kind to you is vitally important. Doing it ALL perfectly is an impossible and unrealistic expectation.
- Developing a profile of their student for the new teacher and team. Because teachers and related service personnel may need a longer span of time to get to know students through virtual methods, consider detailing the profile to address learning style. (See below for a sample one page profile.)
- Keeping detailed notes about what is and is not working for their student, regression they see in their student, and data on IEP goals when able.
- Asking the School District how and when the case manager or key school personnel is available.
- Communicating frequently with the case manager and school personnel regarding learning and service priorities and leaning on them for support when needed.
- Writing an email to summarize conversations and verbal agreements, noting any concerns and/or celebrations voiced.
- Documenting in writing when services cannot be delivered to meet student’s needs or requesting a notice in writing from the school when services cannot be delivered to meet the student’s need(s). Such a notice could include a formal Notice of Action Refused.
Questions parents / guardians might want to ask the case manager or school personnel when applicable:
- How often will the Distance Learning Plan be evaluated and revised to ensure for optimal success of the student?
- How frequently will parent / guardian input be sought for needed changes to the Distance Learning Plan and through what method will feedback be given?
- How are related services delivered and how does that compare to the students’ IEP?
- How and when will the student’s regression from March through present be included in the IEP?
- Who is the best person to contact when the parent needs support or ideas?
- Local educational advocacy support: MPACT, F.A.C.T, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
- The Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, Office of Special Education issued a COVID-19 Related School Reopening and Distance Learning Question and Answer Guide
DESE Form G (Distance Learning Plan)
- DESE’s Parent’s Guide to Special Education
- How Does COVID-19 Affect My Child’s IEP (30-minute pre-recorded presentation)
- Special Education Advocacy (40-minute pre-recorded presentation)
- SSD’s Parent Tips for Virtual Learning
- SSD’s Return to School Guidance
- Example of a Life Course One Page Profile