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Update Concerning Special Education and COVID 19

Accessibility, Education

There are several updates concerning special education during COVID-19. This update may assist you in ensuring that a student with a disability continues to receive a free and appropriate public education. DRAZ has additional self-advocacy guides that provide more information on the special education process.

Today, Governor Ducey and Superintendent Kathy Hoffman announced Arizona schools will stay closed through the end of the school year. Please click on the link here to learn more.

On Tuesday, March 24, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) provided updated guidance on its website regarding the provision of special education to students with disabilities during school closures caused by COVID-19. DRAZ recommends that families of students with disabilities check ADE’s Exceptional Student Services COVID-19 webpage throughout the duration of school closures for additional updates.

Below are some significant points from this most recent guidance.

  • Timelines. The guidance discusses whether timelines associated with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) apply during school closures. In general, timelines cannot be extended. It is important to note that IDEA measures some timelines using “school days” and other timelines using “calendar days.” When schools are closed as a result of COVID-19, no “school days” are taking place, so timelines that are measured in school days are paused, while timelines measured in “calendar days” continue to run.
  • Evaluations. Timelines for evaluations cannot be extended during a school closure. Although ADE declined to state whether in-person assessments must take place, the guidance does indicate that any assessments that are conducted should be conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines and must be administered in a way that will allow for valid results.
  • Meetings. IEP meetings should continue to be held. Meetings can take place via alternative methods such as over the phone or via videoconferencing.
  • Services During School Closure versus Compensatory Education When Schools Reopen. This guidance makes clear that students are entitled to receive FAPE during school closures (at least when schools are providing learning opportunities to other students). If students cannot be provided the specially designed instruction or related services in their IEP during a school closure for safety or feasibility reasons, then IEP teams should consider compensatory education on an individual basis once school resumes.
  • IEP Amendments. IEPs do not need to be amended in order for schools to provide specially designed instruction/related services to students via distance learning methods.
  • Private Day School Placement. For students who are district-placed in a private school setting, ADE states that whether the student will continue to receive services from the private school during school closures depends on the contractual agreement between the public school and the private school.

You may also refer to our guide, COVID SPED Resource created by DRAZ for Arizona families of students with disabilities.

Keep checking in with the Arizona Department of Education, the Governor’s Office, and ACDL for more information on the impact on students with disabilities.

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