Students and families have many questions about how COVID-19 impacts their education. Particularly concerning is the impact on school-age children at greatest risk of being denied services or denied an equitable education. These include children with disabilities, English learners, children living in poverty or experiencing homelessness, children receiving mental health services, children of color, and those in the foster care or juvenile justice system.
Over the past two weeks federal and state efforts have resulted in numerous resources and responses to guide educators and inform families. Some of these are provided below.
Supplemental Fact Sheet: Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities- U.S. Department of Education (March 21, 2020)
This document is a follow up to the US. Department of Education’s Guidance issued earlier in March. The Fact Sheet makes it clear that school districts must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Although achieving this may be different under the current public health circumstances, FAPE may include special education and related services that are provided through distance instruction, virtually, online, or telephonically. Families, educators, and administrators are encouraged to “collaborate creatively” in continuing to meet the needs of students with disabilities.
The Fact Sheet also provides information on IDEA Timelines and legal frameworks for making adjustments under the present circumstances.
Guidance: Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak – U.S. Department of Education (March 12, 2020)
This document in a question-and-answer format outlines states’ responsibilities to infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities and their families, as well as staff serving these children.
Ensuring Educational Services for ALL Students, Including Students with Disabilities and English Learners, During COVID-19 School Closures – Letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and Secretary Rivera from the Education Law Center (March 23, 2020)
This letter, supported by dozens of organizations across Pennsylvania, expresses grave concern for children who are at risk, particularly children with disabilities and English learners. The letter makes numerous recommendations that include:
- Convening virtual IEP meetings and using federal IDEA emergency funding for distance learning and other strategies to support students with disabilities
- Ensuring that English learners receive equal access to the curriculum and educational opportunities
- Supporting public-private partnerships to minimize inequities in access to technology and internet connectivity.
Act 13 – Signed by Gov. Wolf – March 27, 2020
This new state law requires the Pennsylvania Department of Public Education to provide guidance to schools in response to COVID-19. The law in part, requires public schools to make good faith efforts in offering continuity of education and provide “written notice” to parents of students receiving special education services regarding school plans for ensuring a free appropriate public education (FAPE).
We hope these resources are informative and helpful. Changes are happening quickly and often. If you have any questions regarding the rights of children with disabilities and their education during this difficult time, feel free to reach out to Robin by phone 484-577-3288 or email firstname.lastname@example.org