Planning To Reopen - Our Schools, DESE Family Fact Sheet, Part 2 of 3
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) continues to publish guidance for schools and districts. The following highlights the guidance for schools administrators and districts to use as they work with families to help students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) recover as much as possible from the school disruptions that occurred because of COVID-19. To view the documentation in full You can find the guidance here: Mass DESE COVID-19 Resources.
This Fact Sheet summarizes the main points in DESE’s guidance for families. DESE encourages families to keep in touch with your child’s educators and administrators, and to talk about what the new guidance means for you and your child. If you belong to your local Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC), you can also collaborate with your school and district to plan and put in place policies and practices that will help all students with IEPs, in addition to your own child.
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:
- Follow healthy hygiene practices
- Stay at home when sick
- Practice social distancing
- 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 CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA, Mass 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).
Your Child’s Right To Implementation Of Their IEP And A Free And Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)
It is important for you to know that special education laws provide that every student with an IEP must have a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The U.S. Department of Education has made clear that students with IEPs must receive FAPE even during the pandemic. However, FAPE may look different because of COVID-19. For example, to protect the health and safety of students and their educators, when schools were closed in the spring your child probably received special education instruction and services by using a computer or phone, instead of being in a classroom.
Starting With Data
All decisions about the COVID-19 Compensatory Services your child may need must be individualized and based on information and data. Because your child has spent several months in your full-time company, schools and districts should prioritize collecting data and information from you. You can give your school partners important information about your child’s access to learning, engagement, attention, behavior, progress, skills, home experiences, and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on them. The Team needs to learn from you whether your child had difficulty accessing services remotely because of their disability, because of problems with the Internet or computer devices, because your child needed to have an interpreter or materials translated, or for any other reason.
After your child’s IEP Team (which includes you)looks at all of the information and data on your child’s progress toward meeting IEP goals, the Team will determine whether your child needs these services and supports.
Deciding What Support Your Child Needs
DESE recommends that you and the other members of the IEP Team use questions like these to guide your conversations during the Team meeting. Not necessarily all of them will need to be asked and answered to decide whether your child needs COVID-19 Compensatory Services.
- Were some services on your child’s IEP not offered? Were there services on the IEP that your child did not access remotely when in-person education was suspended?
- Did your child lose any skills?
- Did your child fail to make effective progress toward achieving their IEP goals?
- Did your child fail to make effective progress in the general curriculum?
- Does your child need additional supports and/or services temporarily to help recover from the time they did not access services remotely?
- What kinds of General Education Recovery Supports will your school or district offer? Will the General Education Recovery Support be enough to help your child regain skills and knowledge that were affected when in-person education was postponed because of COVID-19?
- Will your child need COVID-19 Compensatory Services? What kinds? How much? It is important to note that these services may not be the exact same number of IEP service hours they missed; however, the services must address your child’s individual needs. The goal of COVID-19 Compensatory Services is to help your child recover from educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. You and the other members of the IEP team will discuss which services will be necessary to do that.
- Will your child need new IEP Services? What kinds? How much? You may decide with your school partners that your child needs a re-evaluation or a new testing if your child has not yet been tested in the new area of suspected disability.
Having An IEP Team Meeting Or Talking To The District Without Convening The IEP Team
There are two ways that you and the school district can discuss and decide whether your child needs COVID-19 Compensatory Services. The first is having an IEP meeting. The meeting can be with the full IEP Team, or if you decide that it’s not necessary to have an IEP meeting with everybody on the Team, you can meet with only some Team members. For example, you might feel that as long as you have your child’s written math assessment, you don’t need to speak with your child’s math teacher, even though that teacher would normally attend at Team meeting. The school needs to have your permission to have an IEP meeting without the usual members present.
Another option is for you and the school district together to choose not to convene an IEP meeting and discuss your child’s need for COVID-19 Compensatory Services with your school more informally. In this case, you may feel that your child’s needs can be met fully and efficiently by talking informally with your school. It is the parent’s choice whether to skip the IEP meeting and instead discuss their child’s need for COVID-19 Compensatory Services with an administrator. If you decide that an IEP meeting is unnecessary, your district will document this with you in writing. Any decision about services or supports will also be documented in writing by the district as is explained below.
Documenting The Support Your Child Needs
The different kinds of support your child needs can be documented in different ways.
- All children can use the General Education Recovery Support offered by their school. Schools and districts are not required to write down and give you a list of the general education recovery support your child will receive, but it is a good idea to talk about these services with your child’s IEP Team. If you have questions about general education recovery support, it is a good idea to reach out to your child’s teacher or the school principal to find out more about how the school is helping all students return to learning this fall.
- If you and the other members of your child’s IEP team agree at an IEP meeting or through an informal meeting that your child needs COVID-19 Compensatory Services, the district must write down the type and amount of service(s), how often the service(s) will happen and for how long, and how your child’s progress will be monitored, and whether transportation is needed in order to access those services. The district should use DESE’s form, Notice of Proposed School District Action/N1, or meeting notes, and give you a copy in your home language.
During the current school year, your child might receive COVID-19 Compensatory Services in person or remotely.
- Any New IEP Services needed because your child has new disability-related needs will be documented on the IEP form or IEP Amendment Form.
Included in Part 3 - Testing, Moving From Districts, Attending A Collaborative, and If Your Child Is The Age Of 22.
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 CDC, EPA, FDA, Mass EEA, Mass EEC, Mass DESE, and OSHA and the Governor's office to follow as we prepare for the new school year.
Also, we at SERVPRO of Framingham 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!
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The Disaster Remediation Teams at SERVPRO of Framingham 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 Framingham today for a free consultation - (508) 370-4400.
All of us here at SERVPRO of Framingham 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!