The Pennsylvania Department of Education has issued updated guidance on Free Appropriate Public Education obligations.
Click HERE to view the updated guidance.
Under this updated guidance, it remains clear that when an LEA continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during physical school site closures, the LEA must ensure that students with disabilities have equitable access to comparable opportunities, appropriately tailored to the individualized need of a student to ensure meaningful access, as determined through the IEP process to the extent feasible. Equitable access requires LEAs who are providing instruction through a distance learning model to replace what would have been provided in the classroom. LEAs must provide access to the instruction for students with disabilities, including planning for appropriate modifications or accommodations based on the individualized needs of each student and the differences created by the change in modality (e.g. virtual vs. classroom-based). Educational and support services provided should be commensurate with those identified in the IEP for each student to ensure educational benefit.
LEAs should consider ways to use distance technology to meet these obligations. LEAs should commit to a reasonable approach to meeting its IEP and 504 obligations. During this exceptional time, communication with parents will be key.
If the LEA can continue providing special education and related services as outlined in the IEP, or an agreed upon amendment to the existing IEP, through a distance learning model, they should do so. Alternative delivery options should seek to comply with federal, state, and local health official’s guidance related to social distancing, with the goal of keeping students, teachers and service providers safe and healthy.
Teachers and specialists should work collaboratively to ensure instruction is accessible for the student based on the student’s individualized needs. Given the unprecedented situation created by the threat of COVID-19, exceptional circumstances may affect how a particular service is provided under a student’s IEP. In such a situation, the IEP team will need to make individualized decisions regarding whether compensatory services are required when the regular provision of services resumes.
As always, our office can provide specific guidance to ensure that you remain in compliance with applicable law during this pandemic.