Student Support Services
NOTE: This document is based upon current guidelines and recommendations from the NYS Department of Health and the NYS Education Department. It is a living document and is subject to updates as more information becomes available.
Special Education Instructional Delivery & Related Services
As it relates to special education planning, the school district Re-opening Plan must address the continued provision of a free and appropriate public education to its students with educational disabilities regardless of whether services are provided in-person, remotely, or through a hybrid model. Special Education Services will continue to be offered consistent with the federal, state and local guidelines that are intended to protect the health and safety of both students and service providers.
Instruction will be designed in conjunction with the Learning Plan for all students, which enables transitioning between in-person, remote, and hybrid learning environments with changing health and safety conditions. Modifications to PPE and instruction may be necessary in different instructional settings. For example, in therapy rooms, dividers will be used for small group therapy. Masks which include windowpanes over the area of the mouth will be used for students who require speech/language therapy, and/or assistance with reading visual cues, emotions, etc. All efforts will be made to provide students with severe disabilities in-person instruction consistent with the equitable delivery of instruction for all students, and dependent on the current health and safety needs.
While school districts must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with an educational disability is provided with the special education and related services identified in his/her IEP, school districts will continue to have the same flexibility for delivery of IEP services until schools return to normal operating conditions. Every effort will be made to provide services in the most equitable and safest way possible.
The Individualized Education Plan
The Individualized Education Plan, (IEP), will document the programs and services offered and provided to students with educational disabilities, as well as incorporate methods for ongoing communication with parents in the preferred language. The Committee on Special Education and the Committee on Preschool Special Education (CSE/CPSE) will make determinations regarding students with disabilities’ access to the Least Restrictive Environment, which will be documented in the student’s IEP. Collaboration between CSEs/CPSEs and program providers will be on-going, to ensure that there is an understanding of the provision of services consistent with the recommendations on IEPs, plans for monitoring and communicating student progress, and commitment to sharing resources. The CSE/CPSE Chairpersons will ensure that students have appropriate student access to the necessary accommodations, modifications, supplementary aids and services and technology. IDEA permits parents and school districts to agree to use alternative means of meeting participation requirements, such as video conferences and telephone conferences. The use of video conference platforms to conduct CSE meetings has been one of the great successes during the COVID-19 building closure period, as it has enabled CSEs to meet regularly and effectively to conduct educational planning for students with educational disabilities in a safe and appropriate manner. The District will continue to use these methods to hold CSE/CPSE meetings while the pandemic is a factor.
School districts have a continuing obligation under IDEA to identify, locate, and evaluate all students who are in need of special education and related services. The District will make every effort to conduct evaluations in-person, within the mandatory time constraints, as the health and safety of students and staff permits. School districts must keep in mind the impact that school building closures may have had on all students. Students should not be identified as having an educational disability merely because they have lost skills due to building closures, changes in the educational delivery model used by the District, or other factors unrelated to whether the student has an educational disability. However, if the parent or District believes that the student may have an educational disability, the student should be referred to the CSE and the process set forth in Section 200.4(a) of the Commissioner’s Regulations should be followed.
At a time when all IEP services could not be delivered consistent with state, federal and local guidance designed to protect health and safety, some students may have experienced a loss of skills related to the changes in the manner that IEP services were provided. In these cases, CPSEs/CSEs must make an individualized determination as to whether, what and how compensatory services are to be provided once schools reopen. In making these determinations, it is important that schools be able to consider accurate information as to how the student’s IEP was implemented, any factors that impeded the District’s ability to implement the IEP consistent with its continuity of instruction plan, and the extent to which the student benefitted from such services. Relevant data will include service logs, report cards, progress reports on IEP goals, assessments and other data reflecting the student’s functioning levels. Consideration should also be given to how compensatory services will continue in the event that school closes again following reopening.
Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS)
MTSS is an evidence-based approach to comprehensive program delivery that addresses academic and behavioral challenges including proactive activities for all students (universal interventions), targeted activities for students identified at-risk (secondary interventions) and intensive activities for students identified at high risk (tertiary interventions). Universal interventions designed to support instructional needs, and social emotional well-being will be crucial to our collective success as students and adults return to instruction and the school environment with increased needs. The District will continue to implement the adopted MTSS framework in each school. Services identified under MTSS will be delivered in conjunction with the District Learning Plan model being implemented based on in-person or school closure.
English as a New Language (ELL)
Students who are English as a New Language Learners must be afforded the opportunity for full and equal participation whether it be through an in-person, remote, or hybrid model of instruction. While many ELLs may have benefitted from learning through remote learning platforms, it is important to consider their unique needs and to strengthen the home language and supports necessary for English language development. The ELL identification process will take place within the first 30 days of schools re-opening for students who may not have been identified in 2019-2020, as well as students entering into the new school year. Instruction will be consistent with the District Learning Plan, and provide for equitable access in any of the three models of instruction. Instructional supports will be provided based on the student’s most recently measured proficiency level. Ongoing communication with families in their preferred language will continue throughout this period of time.