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Return to School Roadmap

On September 30, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”), Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (“OSERS”) issued new guidance in the form of a Q&A in response to various requests asking that the Department issue new guidance interpreting requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) relative to the various challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has confronted schools on their return to in-person services. The Q&A can be found here. Specifically, the Department’s Q&A features detailed IDEA requirements related to the development and implementation of individualized education programs (“IEPs”) as well as other important information that local education agencies (“LEAs”), regular and special education teachers, and parents should all take into account.

Topics addressed within the Q&A, focusing on IEPs, include the following: ensuring IEPs are in effect at the start of the school year, convening IEP teams, meeting timelines, determining appropriate measurable annual goals, making extended school year (“ESY”) determinations, considering secondary transition services, making educational placement decisions, resolving disagreements regarding a student’s educational programming, ensuring implementation of initial evaluation and reevaluation procedures, determining eligibility for special education and related services, and providing the full range of special education and related services that students with disabilities need in order to receive a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”).

The main purpose of the “Return to School Roadmap,” outside of concentrating on school reopening efforts, is to reinforce the full implementation of IDEA requirements. Additionally, the IDEA guidance documents also function to clarify that, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, students with disabilities are still entitled to FAPE.

As stated by the OSERS Acting Assistant Secretary, Katherine Neas, “The pandemic didn’t alter IDEA’s guarantee of a free appropriate public education for children with disabilities. As more and more students return to in-person learning, the Department emphasizes the critical role that IEP Teams, including parents, have in making individualized decisions about each child’s educational needs, including assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and safety considerations and on providing appropriate special education and related services.”

As always, the School Group at Stock and Leader is always monitoring all developments in the special education sphere. Members of our group are ready to discuss concerns, answer questions, and provide counsel on any of your school district’s issues relating to special education.

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