Special Education FAQ for School Re-Opening 2020–21

* Please note that as new information becomes available these FAQ will be updated.


Eligibility and Individualized Education Program (IEP)

What is the definition of a vulnerable learner?
The term vulnerable learner comes from the Recover, Redesign, Restart 2020 plan developed by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).  Students with disabilities are considered vulnerable learners as they may be the most impacted by the extended school closures.
What will necessary meetings look like?
Eligibility, Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and 504 meetings should continue to occur virtually until schools reopen fully. 
How will the tiers of intervention and a student’s need for intervention look in the current situation?  Will it be different? 
No, the need for interventions will not change whether it is virtual or in person.  Based on student need, staff will provide the appropriate intervention(s). 
When looking at intervention, how can multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) staff help staff and students with data collection, fidelity of instruction, and provision of research-based interventions? 
Based on the needs of the students, MTTS specialists will provide small group and/or individual instruction in social emotional and academic areas. They will support progress monitoring using Curriculum Based Measure (CBM), coaching with teachers, conduct observations virtually or face to face, and assist with the collection of Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) data. 
What about 504s?  
504's will need to be completed and implemented as they typically would, considering the accommodations the student would need to access instruction. 
What assessments will be given to students? 
Any Division-wide assessments will be completed as normal, either virtually or in person.
How will we handle re-evaluations? Can we use extension forms for this school year? What about evaluations and eligibility timelines?
Evaluations can be completed in person or virtually. If a parent indicates they do not wish to bring their student in person for an assessment, the assessments can be completed as best as possible virtually. In this case, standardization is broken and standard scores would not be reported. Extensions to timeline forms can be used, if teams agree it is appropriate. The same timelines continue to apply, and there has been no indication that there would be an exception to extend them because of the pandemic.
Which school is responsible for completing the eligibilities for those students who we received consent to evaluate prior to the shutdown who are transitioning between schools? For example, students moving from 5th-6th or 8th-9th grade? 
Teams should work collaboratively to complete the necessary components of the evaluations.  The team could also consider holding a staffing meeting together to plan.
Can we complete the observation portion of an evaluation virtually? 
Observations can be done virtually, and this would be indicated in the report.
Are hearing and vision screenings still required for initial evaluations?
Yes. However, according to VDOE, there are ways to utilize existing medical information that the parents may have if there are concerns about bringing the student in to school to complete these screenings.
During the school closure, not all parents were easily able to sign documents virtually, and we have some outstanding signatures. How do we manage this? 
Parents still have access digitally to Edplan Connect to provide their consent. Other ways signatures have been received include signing in Adobe or signing a shared screen during a virtual meeting. Additionally, the parent could print and sign the page and scan it back, or the parent could come to the school to sign.
Do we provide special education services if a parent decides to homeschool their child? 
If a parent decides to homeschool their child, PWCS can provide a Services Plan (ISP) if the primary disability is Specific Learning Disability (SLD) or Speech/Language Impairment (SLI).  
Are we essentially holding an IEP meeting for each student on our caseloads? 
Yes.   Guidance indicates that this is required as the school year is beginning with new instruction, with school opening and students being virtual or in person, and with in-person instruction not occurring on Mondays. Given these changes to a typical school day, the IEP will be affected, as well as many of the components within the IEP.
Can a student start the school year virtually without a new IEP? 
By the first day of school (September 8, 2020), a new IEP should be proposed.  Things to consider that may help with organization and timeliness include: sending a draft home to parents whenever possible; use of the translation button in Virginia IEP; cutting and pasting the information from the last IEP that is still relevant; the use of multiple administrative designees in a building; securing interpreters who are necessary as soon as a meeting is scheduled; taking advantage of the virtual setting and its flexibility; and seeking ongoing support from the Office of Special Education.  
When should we begin holding IEP meetings to determine services for virtual or in-person instruction?  
Individual schools will determine their schedule for holding IEP meetings at a mutually agreed upon time and date.   
What about IEP service time and how would that look like moving forward? 
The IEP team will determine service time based on student need and the School Board decision regarding the amount of virtual instruction or in-person instruction occurring four days a week.  For example, if a student previously required intensive and ongoing support from the special education staff, then they may be a student that the IEP team should consider coming into school four days a week. If a student previously received minimal services and spent most of their time in the general education setting and was successful with virtual learning previously, then this student may be a better candidate for virtual instruction.   
How are supports for students who have general education subject content going to occur?  
At the present time, these services would occur virtually.  
Is there specific verbiage that needs to be included in the IEP? 
Specific verbiage will not be provided because each student’s needs are individualized.  However, some of the talking points that the team should consider include: services the student received prior to the closure and the data prior to the closure; special education and related services required in-person or virtually; participation in virtual in general education instruction; data provided from Extended School Year (ESY) (if applicable); necessary accommodations; and parent input.  
What data will we use to write a new Present level?  
Information from the Present level could include any information from the previous Present level that is still applicable, new information from how the student managed during the school closure, ESY data (if applicable), and parent input.
How will related services occur? 
Related services can occur virtually or when a student is attending in person.  The related service provider should work with the case manager for scheduling. 
How did virtual ESY services go for students over the summer?
Virtual ESY has gone tremendously well for many students.  Positive feedback was regularly received by parents and staff. The data and information gathered over the summer for these students may assist IEP teams with making decisions for the coming school year.
What does a team do if a parent believes their child requires four days of in-person special education instruction a week, and the other members of the IEP team disagree as the student previously did not receive the same level of service? 
The IEP team would need to discuss and consider all relevant data including the level of support the student required both before the school closure and currently.  The IEP team should propose what they believe the student requires and a Prior Written Notice should be provided.
What are the options for parents when they do not agree with proposed placement or services?  
The parent(s) can ask for a another IEP meeting for further discussion; request a Central Office Review (COR), mediation, or due process.  PWCS is dedicated to working through situations when parents are not in agreement.
What happens when parents do not agree with the proposed IEP? Does it become a “stay-put IEP?” 
Parents can request resolution in one of the ways addressed above.  If the parents do not provide consent to the IEP, then the last signed IEP, to the extent possible according to PWCS School Board Policy, would be implemented. 
What happens if the IEP team decides on virtual services for a student and then later decides that the student requires in-person services?
IEP teams should start by proposing what they believe the student requires. If the team later believes that a student requires a switch from virtual instruction to in-person instruction, that is what should be proposed.
What if the parent decides that they want their student to remain virtual, even if the student really requires in-person instruction to meet their needs?
There may be instances when a parent decides to have their child remain virtual because of a concern with the safety of in-person services, even though in-person services match the student’s needs. In this instance, the team should still propose in-person services and indicate in the Prior Written Notice that the parent has decided to keep their student virtual. The team should also indicate in the Prior Written Notice the amount of special education services that the student will receive in a virtual format in the meantime. If the parent later decides they would like their child to receive in-person instruction, they could sign the proposed IEP. 
Will parents be given guidance as to how to prepare their students for in-school learning?  
Parents and case-managers should work together to prepare students for returning to learning to include both virtual and in-person.  Parents should consider social stories, discussions, and other strategies to help prepare them for this transition. 
If a student needs support with only one area, such as math, can they come in for that subject only if they are successful virtually with all other subjects? 
If students require in-person instruction, they will come in four days a week for instruction with a special education teacher.  Students who attend for in-person instruction may also attend virtual classes during the day if their IEP indicates that need. This would be an IEP team decision.  
Will scheduling be able to be determined at each school?
Please refer to the division’s Return to Learn Plan on the Division website for scheduling.  As for in-person services, the special education teacher will make a class schedule based on the students’ needs. 
Will our encore and electives still be taking place just virtually? 
According to the PWCS FAQ Return to School information, encores and electives will proceed virtually. 
Can we provide a partial day schedule, and if so, can a student receive transportation services? 
A full daily schedule is available for all students both virtually and in-person in accordance with the Return to Learn Plan.  If a student receives in-person special education services, it is for the four-day schedule.  One exception would be a student who is not able to attend for a full day due to medical or behavioral reasons.   
Will special education preschool classes still occur?  Will there still be an AM/PM class? Can they still share a classroom?
Yes, preschool special education students would also be considered vulnerable learners.  Yes, there will still be an AM (morning) and PM (afternoon) class, which for now would need to occur in separate spaces to allow for cleaning in accordance with the requirements.
If students are receiving in-person services, will transportation be provided? 
Yes, if a student requires transportation, the school should complete a transportation form. 
Will homebased or homebound students receive in-person services? 
In-person services are available at the school, where proper cleaning and sanitation can occur according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.  If a student requires services in the home, at this current time, it will need to be virtual. 
Can virtual homebound/homebased services be counted as minutes of service? 
Yes; virtual services can be counted whether homebound or homebased. 
If a specific number of minutes are put in an IEP, but then the provider is sick, will there be compensatory services for minutes that are being missed because of the teacher being ill?
If a teacher is ill and a substitute is there, the minutes of service are being provided. If the provider is sick and services are missed, then the services need to be made up.
Do you know if the VA IEP program will start or if it has started, or are we still using EdPlan? 
The Division is still using Edplan, which is a platform developed by Public Consulting Group (PCG).  The majority of the many modules that we use, such as transportation and FBA/BIP, remain the same.  The eligibility IEP modules within Edplan are now a part of Virginia IEP, which PWCS began using on July 13. The Division has been working on this transition for two years, and we are excited about the new features, such as translation, Edplan Connect for parent consent and communication, and the ability to receive records electronically when a student moves from division to division, as well as many other features.  If you have any questions about these two new modules, there are many opportunities for live and recorded professional learning in the catalog.   
If we all need to write IEP’s will the end dates for majority of students with IEP’s be clustered for September?  
Yes, this is true; however, with IEP’s for students going through reevaluation, students going through a transition to middle or high school, and other factors, they will likely spread out over time. 
What about the process for the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP)? What will that look like virtually?  
Based on the decision from VDOE, if Standards of Learning (SOL) assessments will occur, the same would be true for the VAAP.  If the VAAP is required, then the data and evidence would need to be collected, even if virtually, unless other guidance is received from VDOE. 
Will we need to plan for 1:1 instruction when in a virtual platform due to confidentiality? 
Individual, small, and large groups can occur virtually.  By joining the group or class, the parent/student is agreeing to participate.  If a parent has concerns, they can choose for their child to participate without video.
For related service providers and itinerants who have several schools in which they provide services, how will scheduling work between students participating in general education virtual classes and others participating in in-person special education services?  
Scheduling for related services should occur based on student needs. Scheduling should occur in collaboration with the case manager.  
How will regression reported by the parent be determined or addressed? 
Regression reported by the parent should be documented in the parent concerns and considered and addressed by the IEP team. It is important to remember that it is not unusual for all students to regress on skills when they are not receiving instruction and practicing skills. 
How will ESY services for those who were not able to successfully participate virtually be addressed? 
This would need to be revisited by the IEP team. Make-up services may need to be provided when the student is able to receive in-person instruction.
How can IEPs be written for possible changes (if school closes again, or if school reopens fully before the end of the year) without rewriting several IEPs for one student? 
The Division is considering the use of temporary distance learning plans (TDLP) as we transition from one phase to another. The IEP would remain as written and should be written for a full year as we typically do. The TDLP would be a supplemental form that would indicate the services if we change from one phase to another. The only time we may need to write a full IEP again as a Division is if we reopen to normal operating capacity. 
What is the best way to collect data and complete progress notes if a student is virtual?
The manner in which data is collected for goals is an IEP team decision. The team should consider the best match for data collection methods and virtual instruction during the IEP meeting. Progress notes would be completed with the data collected whether the student is virtual or in-person.
Is there special documentation for Medicaid for virtual students? 
VDOE has provided guidance on this topic, which will be shared with related service providers as applicable.
How will social skills and work habits goals be implemented virtually?  
Social skills and work habits support can be provided virtually through targeted supports and specially designed instruction. Students can work on a variety of skills similar to when they are taught in person. For example, social narratives can be done daily, a student can organize their materials, prompts could be given in a chat box, or students can practice skills like conversational turn-taking. Students may require additional support in this area in the return to new learning.
What is the best way to start the year with student expectations during virtual formats? 
Teachers should regularly review expectations of the students when participating in a virtual format. Students with disabilities can require additional reminders and explicit teaching of what is and is not appropriate behavior during virtual lessons. 
What is the best way to complete baseline assessments in a virtual setting? 
Canvas has a section that supports assessment. This tool can be used to develop and administer formative assessment.
For students who receive special education services through a virtual format, how will it be addressed if they do not “show up” for their IEP service minutes?  Would there be make-up services or would it be similar to them being absent?  
Attendance will be collected for virtual instruction. If the student is absent, it would be counted as an absence and services would not be made up.
What is COVID Recovery?
The determination of COVID Recovery Services is made by the IEP team after a careful review of student performance and data, including pre-COVID closures, student participation and performance during COVID closures, and performance upon return to school. The closure of schools due to COVID is not a normal school break and should be taken into consideration when thinking of a reasonable time standard for recoupment. The IEP team should consider the student’s progress compared to the progress of all students during the extended school closure. This means that IEP Teams will need a period of time to gather data on the student’s performance and assess their skills in relation to pre-COVID closure and their learning rate compared to peers.
How does COVID Recovery Services differ from compensatory services?
During COVID school closures, if services needed to ensure FAPE were so complex and, as such, could not be reasonably provided through a virtual learning platform or other alternative means that were available to other students, then the child’s IEP team must determine the extent, if any, that traditional compensatory services will be provided once normal school operations resume. If a local school division made educational opportunities available on a voluntary basis for all students and a parent or student choose not to engage, this does not equate to a denial of FAPE.