On April 27, 2020, NYSED issued a new round of FAQs as an add-on to the first 21 FAQs issued by SED on March 27, 2020 with respect to the remote delivery of services by providers to students with special needs. Some of the key points that were included in the April 27th guidance were:
- Evaluation Services (questions 22 through 26): SED reiterated the fact that providers should be performing evaluations on a remote basis. The guidance states:
- Initial evaluations are still required to be completed within 60 days of receiving parental consent. The USDE has encouraged school districts to work with parents to reach mutually agreeable extensions of time.
- While evaluations can be done on a remote basis, programs/therapists will need to evaluate whether a specific evaluation can be done remotely for a particular student on a case-by-case basis.
- A remote observation can be performed while a student is receiving continuity of learning at home as part of an initial evaluation, however, this must be made on a case-by-case basis.
- School districts are encouraged to conduct three-year reevaluations remotely where practicable. Any delays in meeting timelines must be documented appropriately and communicated with parents in their preferred language or mode of communication.
- School districts are required to be performing annual reviews at least annually by the Committee to evaluate the status of each student with a disability who resides within a district.
- Provision of Services (questions 27 through 29): SED provided new guidance on how providers should be delivering services remotely:
- Providers must ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that each student with a disability is provided the services outlined within their IEP. Providers should work collaboratively and creatively with parents and communicate in their preferred language to document the providers outreach efforts with respect to the provision of services.
- All IEP’s should ensure the provision of FAPE are met and the IEP should not be written in consideration of the temporary condition brought about by the current distance learning environment.
- Providers should make their best effort to work with families during the normal hours that the School is open. When that is not possible, based upon individual circumstances, a school may need to consider providing services during alternate times (e.g. before or after hours) or days (e.g. weekends) if mutually agreed upon with the parents in order to accommodate students, parents, and school and service delivery program. Providers should document the reason that services could not be provided during normal school hours/days (e.g. parent is working, other children needs, etc.).
- Continuity of Learning (questions 30 through 32): From a continuity of learning perspective, the following guidance has been provided:
- All students with special needs are required to continue to receive services during the period of remote learning. It is the responsibility of the district of residence to ensure that their students are receiving appropriate services. On-going communication must be maintained between the school district and the out-of-district placement site. (Practice tip: Providers need to document everything – communication with parents, the delivery of service, what services and how those services are delivered, etc.)
- 180-Day Waiver (questions 33 through 37): Schools are currently operating under a 180 waiver, and based upon the Governor’s extension of school closures, this waiver is extended through the end of the year.
In addition, the FAQ outlined certain other resources available for schools and parents to support the continuity of learning. For a full copy of the FAQ’s, click here.
Summer Programs: When the Governor extended the school year closure to June 30, 2020, he announced that decisions regarding the summer will be made by the end of May. SED has announced that FAQ’s regarding the summer will be released once additional guidance is received from the Governor’s office. Schools are included in Phase IV of Governor Cuomo’s re-opening plan. Even so, there is a possibility that the State may try to have summer programs done in some level of modified in-person classroom approach. As a result, programs are encouraged to start evaluating their current physical space to determine how things would work, should the environment allow for classroom-based learning over the summer or during September.
Budget Shortfalls: The State is facing a massive budget deficit and there will need to be cuts Statewide if additional Federal Aid is not received. This could result in a decrease in State Aid to schools and potential reductions in rates going forward. What the short-term and long-term impact will be is unknown at this point. Stay tuned!