Students with Disabilities

Students with Disabilities

Reset and Restart of the 2020-2021 School Year:
Meeting the Needs of Students Who Receive Special Education Services in K-12 

As the 2020-2021 school year approaches, educational agencies must consider how best to meet the needs of each student who receives special education services.
 
The education community has worked diligently to meet the needs of students who receive special education services during this unprecedented time. Educational agencies know that they must continue to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) while protecting the physical, mental and emotional health and safety of students and staff. The necessary steps to protect the health and safety of students and staff must continue to be prioritized. It is important for staff and parents to work collaboratively during the 2020-2021 school year to continue to support students who receive special education services.
 
This webpage is designed to support schools as they provide special education services to students with disabilities (ages 3-21) during the 2020-2021 school year. The document addresses specific requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and addresses some frequently asked questions that have emerged regarding the 2020-2021 school year.
 

Flexibility in Meeting the Needs of Students Who Receive Special Education Services: Considerations for Providing Alternative Delivery Models of Education

The Department encourages educational agencies to provide education in the format that will best serve each student and the local community. The Ohio Reset and Restart Education Planning Guide describes that “Ohio’s education system must be nimble, flexible and responsive to ensure the health and safety of all students and adults.” Alternative delivery models may be considered to safely meet the needs of students who receive special education services, such as remote learning, in-building learning or a blended approach. The Ohio Department of Health’s Responsible RestartOhio is about protecting the health of families and communities and provides helpful resources in preparation for the school year.
 
Consistent with U.S. Department of Education guidance, Ohio recognizes that federal and state disability laws allow for flexibility in determining how to meet the individual needs of students with disabilities. We encourage educational agencies to make a good faith effort to provide education to all students through appropriate methods and learning environments.
 
Communication and collaboration with parents are of paramount importance in identifying the appropriate services, supports and least restrictive learning environments for students who receive special education services. The IEP team may need to consider the exact nature of the services provided on a case-by-case basis and based on the student’s unique needs rather than a change in placement due to a district-wide plan. When working with students through alternative delivery models, the school or district should make a good faith effort to determine how a FAPE will be provided and the following questions should be considered:
 
  • Do students who receive special education services have access to the appropriate resources required to engage in the alternative delivery model, such as cell phones, computers, and internet or other forms of connectivity?
  • Consider what additional assistance, resources and supports a student may need to be able to participate in their education.
  • Can the alternative delivery model effectively support a FAPE for each student who receives special education services, including the ability to provide differentiated and specially designed instruction? Regardless of where the learning is happening, supports and services identified within a student’s individualized education program (IEP) must be provided to the extent practicable without putting the health and safety of students or staff at risk. This might consist of phone calls or virtual conferences for direct one-on-one interaction with a student.
  • If using a virtual platform, can your educational agency or building(s) provide training to staff, students, parents and guardians to enable them to use the online system and understand the expectations for use of the system? Can training be accomplished virtually?
  • If using phone or email to connect with students, can your educational agency or building(s) communicate and connect with families to discuss a structure and routine for working with their student via phone or email?
  • Does the district or school have a process in place to track and document communications with parents and services provided as described within the IEP?
 

Special Education Information for Restarting the 2020-2021 School Year

Educational agencies should continue to make a good-faith effort to provide specialized services to students with disabilities. The IEP team will need to consider the exact nature of the services provided on a case-by-case basis depending on the needs of each individual student.
 
When conducting an Evaluation Team Report (ETR) or IEP meeting, the health, safety and wellness of students, parents and staff must be considered and drive decisions regarding whether meetings occur remotely or face to face. All attempts to obtain parental consent and participation should be documented according to district and school policies and procedures, and a prior written notice (PR-01) should be completed and provided to parents.
 

Evaluation Team Report (ETR) 

Initial evaluation team reports must be completed within the 60-day mandated timeline as prescribed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)1 and Ohio Administrative Code 3301-51-06.  
 
Meetings Held Remotely: Reviews of the evaluation team report can be completed using a virtual format or by telephone. Participation and required signatures can be documented by email attachment, standard mail, scanned signature, photograph of the signature or any other electronic means.
 
Evaluations and re-evaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place, so long as a student’s parent or legal guardian consents.
 
As is the case with a typical re-evaluation, a district/schools may choose to conduct a records review. This allows the district/schools to update the evaluation without conducting face-to-face assessments and observations (if new assessments and observations are not needed). The method of conducting an evaluation team report review and signature collection should be documented in a prior written notice (PR01) consistent with the requirements listed in Ohio Administrative Code 3301-51-05(H).
 
In-Person Meetings: Face-to-face meetings must be held in a healthy and safe manner according to Ohio Department of Health and State of Ohio guidelines. Federal and state regulations as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Ohio Administrative Code regarding Evaluation Team Reports (ETR) apply and should be followed accordingly.
 

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

Meetings Held Remotely: IEP annual reviews can be completed using a virtual format or via telephone. Participation and required signatures can be documented via email attachment, standard mail, scanned document, photograph of the signature or any other electronic means, and the method of IEP team review and signature collection should be documented in a prior written notice form (PR01).
 
In-Person Meetings: Face-to-face meetings must be done in a healthy and safe manner according to Ohio Department of Health and State of Ohio guidelines. Federal and state regulations as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Ohio Administrative Code regarding the Individualized Education Program (IEP) apply and should be followed accordingly.
 
While balancing the need to protect the health and safety of students who receive special education services, parents, staff and educational agencies must provide a FAPE. It is important for staff and parents to work collaboratively during the 2020-2021 school year to continue to support students who receive special education services.
 

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The least restrictive environment is determined by the student’s IEP team and based on the student’s unique needs rather than a change in placement due to a district-wide plan. The district’s plan could include multiple types of scenarios; a traditional (face-to-face) environment, blended learning environment or remote learning environment.  All these provisions can be written into one IEP; however, the statements about a student’s least restrictive environment MUST be individualized to meet that student’s unique needs. Generalized statements for students’ least restrictive environments are not appropriate when making these amendments

When making determinations of least restrictive environment based on the structure of the 2020-2021 school year, IEP teams must consider the following:
  • What is the district’s plan for instruction during the 2020-2021 school year?
  • Depending on the type of instruction, what implications are there for the least restrictive environment?
  • How will the student’s individual needs be met to support the student’s least restrictive environment through the district’s plan?
  • Does the least restrictive environment require a change to what the individual student’s learning would look like in the event of a blended learning environment or fully remote learning environment?
  • If a parent or guardian has opted to receive all instruction remotely, how will the IEP reflect the student’s unique educational needs?
  • If the family declines the IEP team’s proposed least restrictive environment, did the IEP team discuss alternative options? Does the district have documentation reflecting the refusal, including prior written notice and any other documentation?


Specially Designed Instruction (SDI)

Specially designed instruction is determined based on each student’s individual goals, objectives and needs as written in the student’s IEP. A student’s special education services must be determined by the student’s IEP team on an individual basis. If the school is engaged in remote learning or blended learning, specially designed instruction must continue to be provided as written in the student’s IEP. Specially designed instruction should address what the specialized needs are for the student’s learning in a traditional (face-to-face) environment, blended learning environment or remote learning environment. All these provisions can be written into one IEP; however, the statements about a student’s specially designed instruction MUST be individualized to meet that student’s unique needs. Generalized statements for students’ specially designed instruction are not appropriate. Data about the provision of any specially designed instruction must be kept by teachers or school staff providing the specially designed instruction.
When making determinations for specially designed instruction if a school is utilizing remote learning or blended learning, the IEP team must consider the following:
  • How the specially designed instruction will be provided, be it in-person, in a blended learning curriculum or completely remote?
  • How the IEP team will document the provision of specially designed instruction?
  • What types of support (such as computer access or internet) the student will need to access the specially designed instruction?


Transportation

Students with disabilities who have transportation needs written in their IEPs must continue to receive specialized transportation, as appropriate. If students with disabilities do not have transportation as a need written in their IEPs, they will receive transportation the same as general education students.
When determining transportation needs for student with disabilities, the IEP team must consider the following:
  • Does the student require transportation in order to access a FAPE? If so, the IEP team must document this information in the student’s IEP.
  • Does the student require specialized transportation (such as door-to-door) in order to access a FAPE? If so, this must be documented in the student’s IEP?
  • Does the student attend a community school and does the student need specialized transportation? If so, is this written in the student’s IEP? 
 

Considerations for Recovery vs. Compensatory services:

Because school buildings were closed at the end of the 2019-2020 school year due to the public health emergency, the usual framework for determining whether compensatory services should be provided does not fit the current circumstances.
 
School districts did not fail to provide a FAPE because the district stopped implementing a student’s IEP; instead, the entire state moved to remote education without choice.
NOTE: If a student with a disability was refused services by a school, or otherwise did not receive services or instruction while other students were receiving services during the building closures, then actual compensatory services may be warranted.
 
When schools reopen, it’s possible some students receiving special education services may demonstrate they did not make as much progress as expected or otherwise display gaps in their learning. To close these gaps, these students will need additional services and support to resume learning based on their current levels of performance. The term “recovery services,” rather than compensatory services, describes the provision of services for students showing less than expected skills acquisition upon re-entry to school. Recovery services are not about a school or district’s intentional failure to provide services as much as they are a systemic approach to help students recover from unavoidable coronavirus- (COVID-19) related service delivery interruptions. The next two sections describe recovery services and compensatory services.
 

Recovery Services:

The IDEA does not define the term “recovery services.” This term is increasingly being used by educators across the country, in addition to compensatory services, in response to the unprecedented impact COVID-19 has had on schools and student learning. The term recovery services reflects the need of learners to recover from any educational gaps in learning caused by the unexpected school-building closures. Recovery services should be provided to students who had an interruption of services during the ordered school-building closure period in the 2019-2020 school year. The determination to provide recovery services to students with disabilities must be done on a case-by-case basis.
 
These additional services should be based on individual student assessments, needs and IEP progress documentation.
 
The following are questions to consider when determining if recovery services should be provided to a student who receives special education services.
 
  • Did the student make progress on his or her IEP goals and objectives prior to the ordered school-building closure period?
  • What were the student’s baseline measures on his or her IEP goals and objectives prior to the ordered school-building closure period?
  • Does the IEP team have documentation of the progress the student made during the ordered school-building closure period in the form of progress reports and other documentation?
  • Did the district provide a FAPE to the student during the ordered school-building closure period?
  • Was the student “accessible” during the ordered school-building closure period for the district to provide services?
  • Did the parent or guardian refuse services during the ordered school-building closure period? If so, did the district document the refusal in a prior written notice?
  • If the district provided a FAPE, did the student make progress? 
  • Did the student regress even with a FAPE provided during the ordered school-building closure period?
 
Once the determination is made to provide the student with recovery services, the IEP team needs to determine what educational recovery services will be provided to the student. This determination should be made by each student’s IEP team. Questions to consider when determining the type of recovery services the student will need are listed below:
  • Does the student require a new evaluation to be conducted?
    • If so, what types of evaluations should be conducted?
    • Does parental consent need to be obtained for the evaluation?
    • Will the evaluation need to be conducted face-to-face or virtually?
  • How will the student’s IEP reflect the additional recovery services?
    • Do new present levels of performance need to be developed which include the recovery services?
    • Will the recovery services be included as part of the goals and objectives?
    • Will recovery services be reflected within the student’s specially designed instruction? Will the frequency, duration and intensity need to be adjusted?
    • How will progress be reported? Will it be included in goal reporting or an alternative format?
    • Will recovery services occur after the typical school day, or does the school day include time when the service could be provided without missing other instruction?
    • Will the related services need to be increased or adjusted?
  • If the parent refuses recovery services, has the district documented this refusal? If recovery services have been attempted by the district but the student was not made available to be provided those services, has the district documented attempts to provide services?
    • If it was not possible to provide services, did the district attempt to communicate with the parent or guardian to discuss alternative options?
    • If it was not possible to provide services and attempts to contact the parent or guardian were unsuccessful was a prior written notice issued?
 
Recovery services can be provided over an extended period of time — not just in the first weeks of returning to school. Also, recovery services for services that were not provided during the ordered school-building closure period do not need to be replaced minute for minute. It is important that school staff document with specificity the recovery services being provided to students with disabilities while monitoring and tracking individual student progress. This information will be necessary to inform the IEP team in making a future determination as to what additional services may be necessary to ensure the provision of a FAPE. The amount, frequency and type of services, beyond the recovery services provided to all students during this time, need to be based on the present levels of performance data collected during both the ordered school-building closure and during the first days and weeks of school reentry.
 
When describing recovery services in the IEP, staff should clearly note in the “Other Information” section of the IEP that these services are being provided due to the coronavirus-related ordered school-building closure period. Also, note in the IEP that these recovery services are not extended school year (ESY) services.
 

Compensatory Education:

Compensatory Education Services are educational services provided to a student because the district failed to provide the special education services listed in the student’s IEP during the ordered school-building closure.

Compensatory services are a remedy under the IDEA. Compensatory services may be ordered in a complaint investigation report or due process hearing when a school failed to provide a student with a FAPE. Sometimes a school voluntarily will offer a student compensatory services when it becomes aware of an inadvertent failure to provide services required by a specific student’s IEP or other potential FAPE violation. In each of these situations, the purpose of compensatory services is to put the child in the same position he or she would have been if the school had not violated the IDEA.
School districts and parents can mutually agree to the compensatory education services after the ordered school-building closure period ends or contact the Office for Exceptional Children’s Dispute Resolution section and utilize the dispute resolution options available. Compensatory education can be issued through a corrective action plan triggered by one of the various dispute resolution processes. Information and the timelines for these dispute resolution options are established by the IDEA.
 
Districts and parents can utilize the same consideration questions as those used for recovery services. The following are questions to consider when determining if compensatory educational services should be provided to a student who receives special education services.
 
 
  • Did the student make progress on his or her IEP goals and objectives prior to the ordered school-building closure period?
  • What were the student’s baseline measures on his or her IEP goals and objectives prior to the ordered school-building closure period?
  • Does the IEP team have documentation of the progress the student made during the ordered school-building closure period in the form of progress reports and other documentation?
  • Did the district provide a FAPE to the student during the ordered school-building closure period?
  • Was the student “accessible” during the ordered school-building closure period for the district to provide services?
  • Did the parent or guardian refuse services during the ordered school-building closure period? If so, did the district document the refusal in a prior written notice?
  • If the district provided a FAPE, did the student make progress? 
  • Did the student regress even with a FAPE provided during the ordered school-building closure period?
 
Once the determination is made to provide the student with compensatory services, the student’s IEP team needs to determine what educational services will be provided to the student. Questions to consider when determining the type of compensatory services the student will need are listed below:
  • Does the student require a new evaluation to be conducted?
    • If so, what types of evaluations should be conducted?
    • Does parental consent need to be obtained for the evaluation?
    • Will the evaluation need to be conducted face-to-face or virtually?
  • How will the student’s IEP reflect the additional compensatory services?
    • Do new present levels of performance need to be developed which include the compensatory services?
    • Will the compensatory services be included as part of the goals and objectives?
    • Will compensatory services be reflected within the student’s specially designed instruction? Will the frequency, duration and intensity need to be adjusted?
    • How will progress be reported? Will it be included in goal reporting or an alternative format?
    • Will compensatory services occur after the typical school day or does the school day include time when the service could be provided without missing other instruction?
    • Will the related services need to be increased or adjusted?
  • If the parent refuses compensatory services, has the district documented this refusal? If compensatory services have been attempted by the district but the student was not made available to be provided those services, has the district documented attempts to provide services?
    • If it was not possible to provide services, did the district attempt to communicate with the parent or guardian to discuss alternative options?
    • If it was not possible to provide services and attempts to contact the parent or guardian were unsuccessful was a prior written notice issued?
 

Extended School Year:

Another consideration in understanding “Recovery Services” is that of extended school year (ESY). The purpose of an extended school year is to prevent, or slow, severe skill regression caused by an interruption of special education services during extended periods when school is not in session. It is not to enhance the present levels of educational performance exhibited by children with disabilities at the end of the regular school year.
The need for extended school year services is based on a construct of skill regression and a child’s limited capacity for recoupment. An extended school year may be provided only when it is determined a child might regress in a critical skill area to such an extent that recoupment of the skill loss would require an unusually long period of time or make it unlikely or impossible to recoup the present level of educational performance.
Within the categories marked by a severe disability, it is not appropriate to assume a significant regression or recoupment factor exists. Some children with severe disabilities may consistently demonstrate a limited array of skills but not demonstrate a significant regression/recoupment factor in any of the skills. Therefore, these children would not be appropriate candidates for extended school year services.
The following are questions to consider when determining if extended school year services should be provided to a student who receives special education services.
  • Will the student lose critical skills without continued support and teaching?
  • Will it take a long time for the student with disabilities to regain those skills—longer than it would take a child without a learning difference?
  • Does the student have difficulty retaining skills over shorter breaks?
  • Does the student have known issues with working memory?
  • Does the student need continual reinforcement to keep his or her skills during the regular school year?
  • Does the student have behavior issues that get in the way of learning during the school year? Will that be a problem next year without continued support over the summer?
  • Is the student making steady progress toward meeting his or her IEP goals? Will a break in services threaten that progress?
  • Are there goal areas of concern that need to be acquired or maintained without interruption for the student to meaningfully benefit from a FAPE?
  • Has there been (or is there a potential for) significant regression during periods of interruptions that would require significant recoupment?
  • Are there rare and unusual circumstances that necessitate continuous instruction for service?
  • Are there other factors to be considered in determining the need for extended school year services?
  • Consider whether the learning that occurred during the regular school year will be significantly jeopardized if extended school year service is not provided.
  • The primary criteria in determining a student’s need for extended school year services are the likelihood of significant regression of previously learned skills during a break in service and limited or delayed recoupment of these skills after services resume.
 

Dispute Resolution Processes

If an educational agency or parent(s) has questions concerning dispute resolution processes, they should contact the Department’s Dispute Resolution staff for information at 1-877-644-6338 or by email at exceptionalchildren@education.ohio.gov.
 
The Department will continue to monitor guidance released by the U.S. Department of Education and update information as necessary.  
 

Office for Exceptional Children Supports:

The Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Exceptional Children is here to help. The Office for Exceptional Children is open and available to provide support to educational agencies, parents and caregivers. If educational agencies or families have questions or concerns, please call (877) 644-6338 or email exceptionalchildren@education.ohio.gov
 
 
 
 

Last Modified: 8/14/2020 4:19:34 PM