School Closure Questions and Answers
School Closure: Special Education Questions and Answers- Revised 4/12/2020
Question: Are students able to receive any in-person Specialized Academic Instruction or related services now?
Answer: Unfortunately not. Oakland Unified’s schools are closed at this time. Moreover, the state is under a shelter-in-place order that does not allow for direct services to be provided at schools or in families’ homes due to public safety. All of our staff must work remotely. We are monitoring the situation and guidance from state and local health officials, and we will explore the provision of some in-person services (e.g. behavioral supports, nursing) as soon as it is safe to do so.
Question: Is there a plan to provide direct services during the school closure?
Answer: The Special Education Department has developed a plan to provide as many services as possible. In our planning, we are paying particular attention to issues of equity and access (e.g. disability impact, computer access). Families should expect communication from their child’s Special Education teacher and related service providers, if applicable. Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) will be provided in a consultative manner via instructional phone calls, and some services will be provided via teletherapy. The Department has provided Special Education personnel with guidance and tools to support their instruction, including sample schedules, lessons, online resources, and IEP goal maps.
For specific information about your child’s services through the distance learning plan, please contact your Special Education teacher/case manager. The frequency and duration of each service will vary based on the way in which it is delivered and the service type. It is important to note that for many services, it is not possible to implement services with the duration/frequency provided during typical instruction.
Question: Will services now be the same as what is in IEPs? Will the District hold IEP amendments?
Answer: Guidance from the California Department of Education indicates that for most students, IEP amendments are not recommended during this time. The move to distance learning is not a proposed change or decision by OUSD but rather a requirement of the public health emergency facing our entire country that results in students being unavailable to us for services or evaluations in person. We expect to implement IEPs fully as soon as we are able to reopen schools.
Because of the limitations of virtual platforms to reach students and families, services will not look the same as what we provide during a typical instructional time. We will continue to provide as many services as possible based upon needs established within IEPs. It is also important to note that many of our teachers and staff are balancing their work responsibilities with teaching and supporting their own children at home, and we wish to limit the amount of time students and staff spend on computer-based instruction each day in the interest of the health of all parties.
Question: My child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting due next week. Should I still plan for the meeting to happen?
Answer: Our Education Specialists and school site leaders have been instructed to hold as many IEP meetings as possible remotely via video or teleconferencing. We know that there are some pieces of IEP meetings that will not be able to be prepared during a closure, so IEPs held during this time may require a ‘Part 2’ continuation once school resumes session. We will not be able to conduct portions of assessments that are in process, as there are no comprehensive, valid tests that can be administered fully online, and observation in the educational setting is a critical component of all evaluations to help teams establish the need for Special Education services.
Question: How should I engage with my child at home to ensure they continue to learn during this time?
Answer: We know that no amount of resources and materials will replace what our teachers and staff typically provide to our students each day. There are steps that families can take to make the home a learning-focused space, however, and we have provided many resources online. Parents should stay in communication with their school leader and teacher to get access to instructional materials and guides.
Question: Do Special Education timelines still apply for requests and assessments?
Answer: The guidance we have received from state and federal authorities indicates that many Special Education timelines will be stopped during this time. For example, assessment request timelines will be tolled, as students cannot be assessed right now, and records request timelines are stopped due to not having ongoing physical access to our records. The District will still respond to requests as quickly as possible, however, as our employees are still working remotely and take parent/guardian requests seriously.
In terms of assessments for students who are already eligible for and receiving Special Education services, families and OUSD may elect to conduct records reviews in lieu of postponing assessments or mutually agree to postpone certain IEPs. Some parts of evaluations may be able to be conducted remotely (e.g. interviews, rating scales). However, there is no way for us to complete evaluations without access to students. Determining the need for special education requires extensive testing and observation in the typical educational setting, neither of which is possible right now.
Question: What supports are Special Education staff providing to ensure materials sent home to families are accessible for children with disabilities?
Answer: We have asked our Education Specialists to work in collaboration with General Educators at their school sites to review materials being sent to students and families. This may include adapting presentation or content, creating large print versions of materials, embedding accommodations, or recommending external tools (e.g. graphic organizers, online resources) that can help students access and engage with provided lessons. Our Assistive Technology team has developed a series of webinars for staff centered around access to online and virtual resources, as well.
Question: How is the Department addressing the needs of students with emotional and behavioral disabilities (EBD)?
Answer: We know our students with complex emotional and behavioral needs will face particular challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 closures, and we are striving to provide as much continuity of care as possible. For students with mental health services through Special Education, our social workers will be providing weekly virtual/phone check-ins and can help support families with mental health resources and crisis/safety response preparation. Families of students who have specialized behavioral needs will receive ongoing calls to provide guidance and support for caregivers, and students with intensive nursing services through Special Education will have the Licensed Vocational Nurse supporting their child provide ongoing check-ins, as well.
Question: When schools reopen, if my child is under doctor’s orders to remain at home due to ongoing medical conditions, is the District obliged to provide Special Education services?
Answer: Yes, should schools reopen, we would remain responsible for the instruction of a student who must stay at home for a longer duration due to their unique medical needs. The child’s IEP team would need to determine the specific nature of the services provided.