The US Department of Education released new guidance reaffirming that schools must fully implement the IDEA (the federal law that governs IEPs) to ensure students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the guidance, all school divisions are expected to provide every student with the opportunity for safe full-time, in-person learning for the 2021–2022 school year. School divisions should put in place layered prevention strategies including promoting vaccination and universal and correct mask-wearing in schools.
The Department also released a Return to School Roadmap to explain school divisions’ Child Find obligations during the Covid-19 pandemic:
- The Child Find requirements in IDEA apply during the pandemic, just as they did during pre-Covid times. School divisions must locate, evaluate and identify students with suspected disabilities.
- A school district cannot require a student to participate in multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) or other general education interventions prior to referring a child for special education.
- School divisions should examine their Child Find procedures to ensure they can adequately identify students enrolled in virtual instruction.
- School divisions should examine their Child Find procedures in light of the educational disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the effects of the pandemic on students’ academic performance and social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health.
- A student with long COVID (or other related post-Covid condition) should be referred for an evaluation for special education if the student’s symptoms are adversely impacting their ability to participate and learn in the general curriculum.