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Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education

Answers to FAQs Regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic

This page was created on August 31, 2020.

How can a local educational agency (LEA) ensure parent/guardian participation in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team meetings if school buildings are closed?

Under 34 CFR § 300.322, an LEA should attempt to contact the parent/guardian to schedule an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting at a mutually agreed upon time and place, maintaining detailed records of telephone calls made or attempted and the results of those calls; copies of correspondence sent to the parent/guardian and any responses received; and detailed records of any other methods to contact the parent/guardian and the results of those contacts. In accordance with 34 CFR § 300.328 (related to alternative means of meeting participation), IEP team meetings may be held virtually, provided the LEA and parent/guardian are agreeable and have access to the virtual setting.

How should a Local Education Agency (LEA) document attendance of Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team participants, including the parent/guardian, for meetings not held in-person?

If the IEP team meeting is conducted by telephone, videoconference, or some other agreed-upon remote method, the LEA should indicate on the attendance page of the IEP, beside each person's printed name, how each member of the team, including the parent/guardian, participated.

When should a Local Education Agency (LEA) issue the Notice of Recommended Educational Placement/Prior Written Notice to a parent/guardian?

Under 34 CFR § 300.503(a), the LEA must notify the parent/guardian in writing and in understandable language within a reasonable time before the LEA: (1) proposes to begin or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to the child; or (2) refuses to begin or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of free and appropriate public education(FAPE) to the child. In accordance with 34 CFR § 300.503(c), understandable language means understandable to the general public and provided in the native language of the parent/guardian or other mode of communication used by the parent/guardian, unless it is clearly not feasible to do so.

Is a Local Education Agency (LEA) permitted to accept electronic or digital signatures for parent/guardian consent on special education documents?

Yes, LEAs may accept electronic or digital signatures for parent/guardian consent on special education records, provided:

  • The LEA's governing body adopts a policy describing the steps taken to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the integrity of the process; and
  • The parent/guardian agrees to using an electronic or digital signature for special education documents.

How does a school district or intermediate unit obtain approval to move a classroom to comply with federal and state public health guidelines?

A school district or intermediate unit must submit a signed Assurance Form to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education, assuring that the change is temporary for the 2020-21 school year and is being done to comply with federal and state public health guidelines and orders. In the form, the school district or intermediate unit must assure that the change meets the requirements in 22 Pa. Code § 14.144 related to facilities.

How may paraprofessionals earn their required 20 hours of professional development during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The decision on who will provide staff development to paraprofessionals is a matter of local discretion. There are several options an employer may utilize to provide this professional development, including arranging for intermediate units or other consortiums to provide staff development or participation in appropriate Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) staff development offerings. Additionally, PDE, via PaTTAN, will continue to offer staff development for paraprofessionals. These programs assist employers in providing high quality staff development to paraprofessionals. PaTTAN provides special education paraprofessional courses online – first-time users must establish an account to access the courses.

How long should a Local Education Agency (LEA) wait after resuming in-person instruction to determine if a student with disabilities needs COVID-19 Compensatory Services?

An LEA may make Compensatory Services determinations at any point within the first three months of providing in-person instruction and/or synchronous instruction in a remote learning environment. This three-month period provides an opportunity for the student to potentially recover any lost skills or behavior through the receipt of instruction and services as set forth in their IEP. LEAs should prioritize students who had the greatest difficulty accessing free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the remote learning environment or that aged out during the 2019-20 school year.

Should Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) be revised to reflect school reopening plans?

IEP teams may need to consider adjustments to IEPs, particularly how services will be delivered based on school reopening plans. For recommendations, please see the annotated IEP on the PaTTAN website.

If an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) includes a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) as a related service and a Local Education Agency (LEA) is utilizing a remote/blended learning model during the 2020-21 school year, must the LEA provide that service in the home?

An LEA must provide all related services as documented in the IEP to ensure each child's provision of free and appropriate public education (FAPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic. If an IEP team determines a PCA is no longer appropriate because the needs of the student have changed, the IEP should be revised. If the IEP team determines a student needs a PCA as a related service, the LEA should ensure necessary safety and hygiene protocols are in place prior to providing in-home support. If in-home supports cannot be provided due to health and safety concerns, this should be considered as part of the Compensatory Services determination.

Are Local Education Agencies (LEAs) required to provide transportation for Compensatory Services?

Transportation to and from Compensatory Services is not considered a related service and therefore is not required. However, LEAs are strongly advised to consider including transportation in the Compensatory Services, since safe and reliable transportation will increase student access. 

Must a Local Education Agency (LEA) provide transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic if transportation is designated as a related service in a student's Individual Education Plan (IEP)?

Yes, an LEA must provide all related services as documented in the IEP, including transportation, to ensure each student's provision of free and appropriate public education (FAPE).​