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COVID-19 Special Education FAQ

How will AUSD support students receiving special education services during Fall 2020?

During Distance Learning, Education Specialists and Related Services staff (i.e. SLPs, OTs, PT, A-PE, Behaviorists, and paraprofessionals) will continue to support students with IEPs by working with small groups of students, co-teaching lessons, collaborating with general education and special education staff, holding special education small group and individualized sessions, and scheduling and holding virtual IEP meetings. As noted, related service providers (speech therapists, occupational therapists, etc.) will also continue to support students virtually.

 

What is Senate Bill 98 (SB 98)?

Senate Bill 98 is a new California law that was approved in July 2020 along with the state budget. The new law addresses required standards for public schools and provides guidance and recommendations for education during times of emergencies.

 

What does SB 98 require for all students?

The law mandates new minimum amounts of required instructional minutes, as follows:

  • TK/ Kindergarten:  90 minutes synchronous; 60 minutes asynchronous
  • 1st - 3rd grade: 120 minutes synchronous; 80 minutes asynchronous
  • 4th - 5th grade:  150 minutes synchronous; 60 minutes asynchronous
  • 6th - 12th grade: 165 minutes synchronous; 135 asynchronous

*Wednesday - 25 min synchronous for TK/K; 30 minutes synchronous for all other students

 

In addition, the law mandates that each student have a daily live interaction with a teacher (via Zoom or telephone). School staff also must take attendance daily and document daily student participation.

 

Does SB 98 have requirements for Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)?

Yes. SB-98 requires that each Individualized Education Program (IEP) include a description of the services to be provided under “emergency conditions” in which instruction cannot be delivered in-person for more than 10 school days (such as Distance Learning).  AUSD will also address the offer of FAPE (free appropriate public education) for typical times during the IEP meeting.

 

What is an Emergency or Contingency Learning Plan?

SB-98 defines an Emergency or Contingency Learning Plan as a description of the services in an IEP to be provided under “emergency conditions” in which instruction cannot be delivered in-person for more than 10 school days.  As of June 29, 2020, Emergency Learning Plans must be developed either at initial IEPs or at the next regularly scheduled revision of the IEP. Given that AUSD wants parents/guardians to understand services their students are receiving right away under emergency conditions, the “IEP Aligned Plan” is provided at the beginning of the school year.

 

Parent/guardian input and questions are welcomed into the IEP Aligned Plan. Plans can be adjusted through a meeting or conference with your case manager. The IEP Aligned Plan may also be discussed in the IEP meeting, in addition to the offer of FAPE for normal times, although requests and concerns may be more expeditiously accomplished with your case manager in a conference. In the IEP meeting, the  IEP Offer of FAPE will address typical times while information regarding changes in the IEP Aligned Plan are also recorded and discussed. Please know that case managers are working as quickly as possible to schedule IEP meetings.

 

What has to be included in the IEP Aligned Plan?

These contingency or emergency plans must include a description of how the following will be provided under emergency conditions:

 

  • Special education and related services
  • Supplementary aids and services
  • Transition services
  • Extended school year services

 

The IEP Aligned Plan should include both synchronous (live via Zoom or telephone ) and asynchronous (video models, packets, google classroom) instruction and related services. Because AUSD has started the 2020-21 school year with Distance Learning under emergency conditions, case managers, in collaboration with families, will edit IEP Aligned Plans as soon as possible and upon request. It is our hope that the emergency conditions are lifted by summer ESY.  ESY will be addressed in the annual IEP meeting.

 

Is my student’s Distance Learning Plan from Spring 2020 the same as the new “IEP Aligned Plan”, which is AUSD’s Contingency Plan?

The IEP Aligned Plan replaces the Distance Learning Plans created in spring, 2020. The IEP Aligned Plan should be more robust, as SB 98 requires daily live instruction and improves upon our learnings from the Spring of 2020. For IEP learners, case managers are to ensure that each student receives the minimum number of instructional minutes required by SB-98.

 

Are parents able to provide input into the IEP Aligned Plans?

Yes, meaningful parent participation in the creation of AUSD’s IEP Aligned Plan is welcomed and necessary when questions or concerns arise. Case managers will schedule a discussion (via telephone or Zoom) with you to discuss your child’s needs. During these discussions parents and guardians can provide input on what did and did not work for their child in the spring 2020 Distance Learning to make changes in the IEP Aligned Plan. Parents may also work with the IEP team. Although the IEP will address the district’s offer of FAPE when regular school resumes, a discussion of changes for the IEP Aligned Plan (“Emergency Plan”) and the outcome of the discussion can be recorded in the IEP notes pages. If necessary, ask for an interpreter to help you communicate with your case manager.

 

What if I do not agree with the changes in the IEP Aligned Plan?

If you do not agree with the IEP Aligned Plan, discuss your concerns with your case manager. If resolution is not achieved through a conference with your case manager, request a virtual IEP meeting to discuss the IEP Aligned Plan with your IEP team. The team will convene the annual IEP early in order to complete supports and services during normal times, and will also hold a discussion regarding the IEP Aligned Plan, noting the discussion and outcomes in the IEP notes pages.

 

During Distance Learning, will students be mainstreamed into general education classes?

Yes, IEP Aligned Plans should be designed to provide students with disabilities comparable opportunities for mainstreaming as when instruction is in-person. In order to ensure mainstreaming occurs, case managers and general education teachers will coordinate schedules in order to provide students with disabilities the opportunity to interact with typically developing peers.

 

Will AUSD move forward with Special Education Assessments during the period of school closure?

AUSD will attempt to complete evaluations within the 60-day timeline to the best of its ability. The IDEA allows the district and parent/guardians to agree to an extension of the 60-day timeline to complete an evaluation. We recommend parents/guardians work with their evaluators to determine the best course of action for their child. School psychologists who complete initial and triennial evaluations are planning a means to “catch up” evaluations paused during the school closure period last Spring while moving forward with new evaluation referrals and triennials that come due.  A plan is underway to assist Education Specialists with catching up while moving forward as well.  Additionally, some evaluations were completed in the summer months through the hiring of NPA staff.

 

How does AUSD plan to address recovery of learning from the school closure period?

AUSD piloted additional Summer Instructional sessions in which online research-based curricular materials were used (e.g., Lexia for reading). The sessions were well-received by parents and Education Specialists whose students participated in additional small group sessions for English Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Skills, and Well-Being.  We will offer these sessions to any IEP learner soon for the fall. Additionally, STAR testing will be completed for M/M learners while M/S learners will complete classroom-based assessment. Upon completion of the assessments, students whose parents did not sign their child up for the fall Additional Sessions will be encouraged to do so if student scores show that recovery would be beneficial.  A separate communication regarding this topic is forthcoming soon.

 

What if my child cannot participate in distance learning without adult support and really needs in-person services during emergency conditions?

Recently the Alameda County Health Department released guidance on “Learning Hubs.” School districts in consultation with their union partners now have the ability to offer in person support to students in cohorts of 12 or less. Although districts in Alameda County are still required to deliver instruction through Distance Learning, the support hubs for Moderate/Severe students can provide a place, where those students who are having the most difficulty with accessing the learning online, to receive additional supports and services. AUSD’s Special Education team is currently exploring the steps needed to open learning hubs for Moderate to Severe students. Our vision for the learning hub would include paraprofessionals supporting our students in person with guidance from teachers. Related services staff will continue virtually while the paraprofessional supports student engagement.

 

This topic will be discussed in the AUSD’s Board meeting on 9/22 The meetings begins at 6:30 pm. If we proceed, personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitization would be required and is important. It will be understood by those who opt to participate, that some students may not socially distance well or wear face coverings. While these students would receive instruction regarding PPE and engagement using positive applied behavioral analysis techniques, close contact with paraprofessionals and other students will occur. The Department hopes to open Learning Hubs in sometime in October, after recently learning from the California and Alameda County Departments of Health that this is possible.

 

What is a Prior Written Notice?

A Prior Written Notice is a document that provides notice to parents in their native language when a district is:

  • Proposing or refusing
  • To initiate or change
  • The identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child.

AUSD case managers attached a parent cover letter and PWN regarding changes of instruction that naturally occur in an emergency situation to the IEP Aligned Plans.  These letters are also attached to this parent communication,

 

Why is a Prior Writing Notice necessary for the IEP Aligned Plan or Contingency Plan?

A Prior Written Notice is necessary when an Emergency Learning Plan (i.e. IEP Aligned Plan) is proposing a change to a student’s IEP for Distance Learning. AUSD must provide parents with a Prior Written Notice to explain any proposed changes.

 

Will my child’s service minutes be reduced in the IEP Aligned Plan?

Your childs’ service minutes (SAI) may be adjusted based on your students’ individual needs. Case managers have written a plan that is distributed at the beginning of the school year to provide families information quickly regarding  determine what each child needs to make progress on IEP goals via Distance Learning. Each student’s schedule will be reviewed to ensure that the total number of minutes meets the requirements of SB-98. Intensive Individual Services and small group instruction should align with the area of need identified in the IEP and/or the required instructional minutes for a specific content area but may be different in order to accommodate the availability of minutes in a virtual day.  AUSD does wish to make instruction and services as robust as possible given available minutes and concern from staff for their students.

 

Will annual IEPs be held during the Distance Learning period?

Yes. Case managers will offer to hold the meeting virtually either by telephone or Zoom.  Case managers are currently scheduling IEP meetings that are coming due during this school year while working to also schedule any meetings not held during the spring school closure. 

 

While many IEP meetings were held in the spring and summer, some meetings will need to be scheduled at this time.  For these meetings, the annual IEP meeting is then convened early, while the Education Specialist works to stay on schedule for this year’s meetings.  Note that case managers are scheduling last spring’s IEP meetings in chronological order unless there is a placement need.

 

What if my annual isn’t until spring, but I have concerns now?  Can I ask for an additional IEP meeting?

Yes, contact your case manager about your concerns and request an IEP meeting. Your case manager will respond to the request and schedule a virtual IEP meeting to address your concerns within 30 days of the request. The annual IEP meeting will be convened early if agreeable, creating a new annual review date.