COVID-19 school closures have left parents of children with special needs, particularly those with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), feeling uncertain about their child’s rights and their school’s responsibility during this unique time. School district responses to COVID-19 continue to evolve rapidly, with most schools currently planning to stay closed until April or May, and others now closed for the remainder of the school year (check out this map to see the latest school closures by state).
Since these closures happened quickly and with very little planning, many districts are still working through their remote education plans. In the meantime, some schools have not assigned any work, many have sent home assignment packets, and others are providing some form of online learning. For children with IEPs, their special needs may directly impact their ability to learn at home via these improvised formats.
The current situation is unprecedented, and schools are adapting as quickly as possible. Most schools, even those that have already instituted online learning programs, are still working out the kinks for all children in the general education population. Once schools are on more solid footing with their overall programming, they will likely begin focusing on adapting and tailoring these programs to meet the needs of children with IEPs.
For parents looking for information specific to the rights that children with IEPs have under the current circumstances, and the direction that school districts are being given about how to implement special education accommodations and services, the U.S. Department of Education website is your best source of information. Once programs and accommodations start rolling out, your child’s school district and your State Department of Education websites will also become key online resources.
The U.S. Department of Education’s website can be overwhelming, so when looking for up-to-date information, focus on these three resources:
There’s a lot of information embedded in these resources, but here are a few key take-away points:
Responses to the COVID-19 outbreak will continue to evolve over time, with many differences from school to school and district to district. In addition to staying up to date with online resources, reach out to your child’s school if possible and discuss any concerns you may have. It will take time for schools to adjust to this unprecedented situation, so you may not get clear answers right away. But with patience and open lines of communication, you should eventually be able to work with your child’s school to develop a plan that meets your child’s unique needs.
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