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Planning To Reopen - Our Schools, DESE FAQ Special Education Qs 20-25

9/11/2020 (Permalink)

The way in which our children learn and our educators teach to begin this school year will be will challenging for both to say the least. Regardless of the reopening model chosen by your school district, all schools will be providing remote learning to some extent. Parents whose children require special education in the COVID-19 environment may be struggling with how these necessary changes may impact the ability of school districts to meet their children's needs.  The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has put together a FAQ to help parents navigate these uncharted waters. 

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:

  1. Follow healthy hygiene practices
  2. Stay at home when sick
  3. Practice social distancing 
  4. 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 CDCEPAFDAMass EEAMass 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).

The Massachusetts DESE recommends that districts and schools select high quality, and subject areas.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Special Education Related Services, and Models of Learning

IEP Meetings, Timelines, and Other Procedural Requirements

20) Can the Department offer flexibility to schools and districts on meeting procedural timelines?

On April 27, 2020, U.S. Secretary of Education DeVos issued a report to Congress, declining to recommend waivers to the core tenets of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This means that IDEA procedural timelines remain in effect. The Department has issued guidance to schools and districts on this topic. For more information, see COVID Special Education Technical Advisory 2020-2.

21) A student’s IEP expired during the period when in-person instruction was suspended. Will the IEP still be in effect?

Yes. The current IEP will remain in effect until a new IEP is developed and accepted, irrespective of the expired date reflected in the IEP form.

22) If the annual review of a student’s IEP is due, or if an IEP Team determines an IEP meeting is needed, how should the district hold the meeting if an in-person meeting is not possible?

IDEA regulations contemplate that IEP meetings may be held via telephone and/or video conference. Districts should continue to convene IEP Team meetings using these alternative means of meeting participation, if necessary. To convene an IEP meeting using telephone or video conferencing, districts must ensure that all IEP Team members, particularly those whose participation is required under IDEA, have access to necessary technology and accommodations to allow remote participation. Rather than using personal telephone lines or cell phones, school and district personnel may choose to use a third-party platform. For limited English proficient parents, districts must also ensure that interpreters are provided for IEP Team meetings and translate documents, when appropriate.

If required members of the IEP Team are unable to attend, IDEA regulations provide that Team members can be excused with agreement from the family, if:

  1. The district and the family agree, in writing, that the attendance of the Team member is not necessary because the member’s area of the curriculum or related services is not being modified or discussed; or
  2. The district and the family agree, in writing, to excuse a required Team member’s participation and the excused member provides written input into the development of the IEP to the family and the IEP Team prior to the meeting.

23) Should schools continue to issue student Progress Reports?

Yes. Schools, districts, collaborative programs, and approved special education schools must continue to issue student Progress Reports at least as often as report cards or progress reports are provided for students without disabilities in accordance with Special Education Laws.Progress Reports can be sent to families in multiple ways, e.g., U.S. mail, email, student information systems, or online communication platforms, and must be translated for families if necessary.

24) Should schools continue to maintain student health records?

Yes. Even though not all schools maintain electronic health records, schools should continue to maintain nursing documentation per the Department of Public Health (DPH). Records can be maintained through paper logs and/or by entering calls into the Student Information Management System (SIMS). DPH understands that it may not be possible for nurses to transfer all paper logs into electronic systems and encourages retaining all paper logs.

25) Should schools continue to submit Chapter 688 referrals for secondary students with severe disabilities?

Yes. Schools must continue to submit Chapter 688 referrals via the Virtual Gateway. These referrals are essential so that adult agencies (Department of Developmental Services, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commissioner, Department of Mental Health, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, Department of Children and Families, and Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard or Hearing) can request the appropriate amount of funding from the legislature to serve students with IEPs who will turn 22 and are eligible for adult agency services. 688 referrals should be completed by the district two years before the student’s anticipated date of exit, but even late referrals are useful.

Districts should submit with the referral form, at a minimum, the student’s most recent IEP and three-year evaluation. Parent consent during this emergency can be in the form of wet signature or e-signature, email, or verbal consent documented in district staff notes. Questions about 688 filing or referral should be sent to:                     

Kathy Stern

NOTE: According to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education areas of the school visited by the COVID-19 positive individual must be closed off and/or cleaned and disinfected. The area can be used 12 hours after cleaning/disinfecting has occurred.

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 CDCEPAFDAMass EEAMass EECMass DESE, and OSHA and the Governor's office to follow as we prepare for the new school year.

Also, we at SERVPRO of Norwood/West Roxbury 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!

Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned

The Disaster Remediation Teams at SERVPRO of Norwood/West Roxbury 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 Norwood/West Roxbury today for a free consultation - (781) 769-9125.

All of us here at SERVPRO of Norwood/West Roxbury 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!

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