COVID-19 has raised serious questions about how districts are helping students with special needs—it’s worth creating a special education steering committee, experts say

The 2020-21 school year has already seen unprecedented expectations placed on school district administrators and educators nationwide – a trend which will likely continue until the pandemic is managed.

Over the summer, state education agencies required local school districts to create “re-entry plans” to outline how students can safely and equitably return to school in multiple learning environments. These plans are often chock full of implementation supports for the majority of students, but offer little to no support on the unique needs of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). In some states, boards of health have offered specific considerations for students with disabilities. However, in many others, that may not be the case.

Related content: A special ed teacher goes the distance to reassure her students

The reality is that teachers and school leaders are not doctors or scientists, and they should not be expected to have expertise in the spread of infectious diseases. In the absence of specific guidance supporting the implementation of special education during reentry, it is important to be making informed decisions on the nuances specific to providing students with IEPs a free and appropriate education. Hence, it is important that districts create COVID-19 Special Education Steering Committees.

The 2020-21 school year has already seen unprecedented expectations placed on school district administrators and educators nationwide – a trend which will likely continue until the pandemic is managed.

Over the summer, state education agencies required local school districts to create “re-entry plans” to outline how students can safely and equitably return to school in multiple learning environments. These plans are often chock full of implementation supports for the majority of students, but offer little to no support on the unique needs of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). In some states, boards of health have offered specific considerations for students with disabilities. However, in many others, that may not be the case.

Related content: A special ed teacher goes the distance to reassure her students

The reality is that teachers and school leaders are not doctors or scientists, and they should not be expected to have expertise in the spread of infectious diseases. In the absence of specific guidance supporting the implementation of special education during reentry, it is important to be making informed decisions on the nuances specific to providing students with IEPs a free and appropriate education. Hence, it is important that districts create COVID-19 Special Education Steering Committees.

Whether instruction will be fully virtual, a hybrid of remote and in-person, or fully in-person, in order to provide the most effective special education programming given these unique circumstances, districts should prioritize the creation of said committees. Each COVID-19 Special Education Steering Committee would oversee the development of and adherence to health and safety procedures as well as instructional considerations that are informed, specific, and targeted for special education implementation within the district.

Now, let’s explore who should comprise your district’s COVID-19 Special Education Steering Committee.

COVID-19 Special Education Steering Committee

My team and I recently developed and published a free detailed checklist outlining actionable steps to help special education departments prepare for the 2020-21 school year amid the pandemic. One of the key recommendations within that checklist is the creation of a COVID-19 Special Education Steering Committee.

Because the needs of students with disabilities are complex, especially during a global pandemic, we recommend the following constituencies participate in this committee:

• District Physician and Local Board of Health: The fluid nature of the pandemic requires decisions rooted in science, with guidance and support from local medical experts.

• Children with disabilities may be in situations that create increased risk for themselves and staff – e.g., the close proximity of staff to students in learning, hygiene, toileting, de-escalation, restraint.

• Special Education Legal Counsel and/or Board Counsel: Students with disabilities and their parents are afforded special rights through IDEA, state laws, and regulations. When done with limited information and foresight, policy implementation decisions for special education made during the COVID-19 emergency may have downstream legal implications for the district.
source: Read More, eSchool News

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