• Molly Watson

California's Schools Respond to Coronavirus

· The U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has issued guidance emphasizing that federal disability law allows for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. During the COVID-19 emergency, how a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is to be provided may need to be provided in a way that protects the health and safety of students with disabilities and school staff.

· At present, the federal government has not waived the federal requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). So, IDEA’s requirements, including federally mandated timelines, continue to apply. And each student’s services and supports will be provided under their IEP.

· Ensuring compliance with the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act should not prevent schools from offering distance learning.

· The California Department of Education asserts that schools should continue to serve children with special needs by tailoring distance learning to provide educational benefits to the greatest extent practicable under the circumstances.

· The CDE will convene a workgroup of practitioners and experts in special education to assess various models of distance learning being implemented in California and across the country. And guidance will be forthcoming soon.

· As school districts assess options for distance learning, they should assess the extent to which children with disabilities will be able to obtain educational benefit under each option.

· To the greatest extent possible, school districts should continue to provide related services, such as speech and language therapy and occupational therapy, consistent with the child’s individualized education program (IEP). This may require that services are provided at more than one school site in order to follow social distancing guidelines.

· School districts need to be flexible in providing access to assistive technology devices, when necessary, to ensure children have access to devices typically used at school.

· Some nonpublic agencies and nonpublic schools may choose to provide services during school closures to ensure a continuity of services. These services may be provided through distance learning.

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