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Parent/Family Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 and Special Education

View information for educators and parents to support students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 resources for special education

 A Guide for Parents and Family Members of Students on IEPs

Please note that the following initialisms and acronyms are used in this guide:

CDE - Colorado Department of Education

ESSU - Exceptional Student Services Unit

IEP - Individualized Education Plan

OSEP - Office of Special Education Programs

PEP - Parents Encouraging Parents

USDE - United States Department of Education

 


Whom should I contact with general questions?

Answer: Your first line of communication is with your child’s teacher or case manager.  The person who oversees your child’s program for instruction is in the best position to help you understand what services are being provided for your student during suspension of in-person learning.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the type or delivery of services, you should contact your district’s Director of Special Education.  If you are unsure who that person is, you can find a list organized by county and administrative unit on the CDE website at Find Your Special Education Director (at http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/sped-dir).

 

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How do I contact the CDE?

Answer: If you need additional information or help beyond what you have received from those channels, you may contact the CDE Exceptional Student Services Unit at 303-866-6649 or 303-866-6757. For the near term, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many staff are working remotely but are closely monitoring messages left on the office phone system. Someone will return your phone call as quickly as possible, but definitely by the next business day. You may also e-mail us at: Parents_ESSUquestions@cde.state.co.us. 

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My child’s IEP review is coming up.  May we have a virtual IEP meeting?

Answer: Yes.  Schools are required to complete annual IEP reviews during the suspension of in-person learning.  Both the CDE and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) approve virtual IEP meetings.  Parents and the IEP Team may agree to conduct IEP meetings through means such as videoconferencing or conference telephone calls.

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I would like to extend the timeline for my child’s annual review.  Is that possible?

Answer: Yes, you and the school may agree to extend the timeline for completing the annual IEP review.  In this case, the existing IEP would continue to be implemented.  The IEP Team should carefully document the agreement.

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What about IEP meetings for reasons other than an annual review?

Answer: You may request a virtual IEP meeting at any time.  Please follow the procedures that your child’s school has in place for making those requests. If you are unsure how to request an IEP meeting, please contact your district’s director of special education.

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I would like some support for my child’s IEP meeting.  What is available?

Answer: Many times parents would like to have an advocate or other support person with them for an IEP meeting.  This process has not changed for meetings conducted by videoconference or telephone.  The IEP Team should be aware of all those who will be attending virtually.

The Exceptional Student Services Unit continues to offer IEP Facilitation during this time. If you are interested in requesting a facilitator for your virtual IEP meeting, please complete the request form located on the Alternative Dispute Resolution webpage (at www.cde.state.co.us/spedlaw/edr).  Either the parent or the school may make the request and both must agree to the use of a facilitator. After gaining agreement from the other party, a facilitator will be in touch to develop an agenda. A number of documents to guide this process are available on the Facilitated IEP Meeting Information webpage (at http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/facilitated-iep-info).

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If I believe that my child’s IEP is not being followed, do I have any recourse?

Answer: If you have concerns about your child’s IEP being followed or about the provision of FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education), please first contact your district’s Director of Special Education.  Your director’s contact information can be found on Find Your Special Education Director (at http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/sped-dir).

It is important to acknowledge that FAPE must be provided in a manner consistent with health and safety. This might affect how some services are provided.  As a result, we recognize that IEP services might look different during the suspension of in-person learning.  A potential outcome is that some students may be entitled to compensatory services when school operations return to normal. If a child does not receive services, the school must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed.

At any time, you may contact the ESSU at 303-866-6649 and leave a message.  Be sure to include your phone number.  Someone will return your phone call as quickly as possible and discuss processes that might be helpful to you.

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If my student cannot access the alternate service delivery model, what is the school required to do?  What can I do?

Answer: Special education and related services established in the IEP should be provided to the greatest extent possible. The district must consider ways to ensure that continuing educational activities are accessible to students with disabilities. Districts will need to consider the individual learning needs of students in determining how to provide services and meet the student’s needs. 

If your student is unable to access an alternate service delivery model for any reason, first contact the student’s teacher(s) and discuss other means such as physical packets that are sent home, engaging videos, or interactive phone conversations.

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Now that my child is engaging in remote learning, does that mean his/her IEP should show a change of placement?

Answer: No.  During this time, the CDE is not requiring that IEPs reflect a change in placement. At-home remote learning is different from homebound instruction that might occur when schools are physically open.  In the case of this pandemic, all students are receiving at-home instruction. 

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When we get back to “normal,” will the district provide compensatory education?

Answer: Once school resumes, the school district will again make every effort to provide special education and related services in accordance with the student’s IEP. The school will make an individualized determination as to whether and to what extent compensatory services are needed to address regression or loss of skills. This is an unprecedented event, and the CDE recognizes that there are a number of questions about compensatory education services.  The Department will be working with districts and releasing guidance as more information becomes available from the USDE.

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My student was referred for a special education evaluation just prior to at-home instruction starting.  What can I expect now? 

Answer: If you have signed a consent for evaluation, the school district is encouraged to complete any evaluation that does not require face-to-face assessment in a timely manner.  An evaluation must be sufficiently comprehensive to identify all of the child’s special education and related service needs.  Typically, the evaluation will include a review of all existing data, classroom observations, and a variety of assessments.  It may be difficult to complete some of these components and obtain reliable data during at-home instruction.

You and the school may agree to extend the time for completing the evaluation if face-to-face assessments are necessary in order to ensure a sufficiently comprehensive evaluation.  Such an agreement should be documented so that both the school and you are aware of the plan.

If you do not agree to an extension, the IEP team may still convene virtually to review any existing evaluation data and decide if they are sufficient to determine eligibility. The school may also use information about how the student is functioning with the current educational practices used for at-home instruction.  If sufficient data exist to determine eligibility, and the child qualifies, then an IEP should be developed so that services can begin.  If the existing data are insufficient, the IEP team will be unable to determine eligibility for special education services and a new referral may be considered when in-person learning resumes.  To the extent appropriate, information used from the first referral may be used to expedite the special education evaluation process.  Please speak with your child’s school regarding the plan for your child when school resumes.

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Where can I get information about additional resources?

Answer: Please consult the CDE-ESSU webpage (at http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped).  There are many excellent resources for families listed on the Parents and Families of a Child with Disabilities page (at http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/spedparents).

Parents may also refer to guidance Questions and Answers on Providing Services to Children with Disabilities during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak from the USDE (at https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/qa-covid-19-03-12-2020.pdf) and additional guidance from the CDE under IEP Meetings under Special Education & COVID-19 FAQs webpage (at http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/special_education_faqs#iep).

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