Important Update for Parents/Guardians of Students with Individualized Education Programs or Section 504 Plans
Dear Montgomery County Public Schools Families,
On March 22, 2020, Superintendent Jack Smith announced that beginning on March 30, 2020, MCPS will launch the first phase of a continuity of learning (distance/remote learning) system so that all students can begin to have structured school experiences. Monday, March 30 will be the first day our teachers and 10-month support staff members will be back at work. They are excited and eager to reconnect with their students.
We know that families of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) have many questions. Throughout the last few weeks, the Office of Special Education, the Resolution and Compliance Unit, and the Office of the General Counsel have been collaborating with local and state education agencies to determine a thoughtful, measured approach to implement the continuity of learning. As the instructional environment shifts from in-person to online, students and teachers will need time to adjust.
As a result, all IEP and Section 504 meetings that were postponed while schools were closed from March 16 to March 27, 2020, will be rescheduled. All IEP and Section 504 meetings scheduled for March 30 through April 3, 2020, are postponed and will be rescheduled.
Beginning Monday, March 30, students and families will have the opportunity to take tutorials and lessons to practice interacting with the online tools. Staff will be participating in professional development on a variety of topics, including the use of new and familiar technology tools to support student learning and setting up their myMCPS classrooms. We are working diligently to ensure these virtual tools allow access to learning for all students, including students with disabilities.
Elementary school staff will be engaged in professional learning on Monday through Wednesday (March 30–April 1). They will begin to reconnect with students on Wednesday, April 1 and begin learning experiences with students on Thursday, April 2.
Secondary school staff will take part in professional learning on Monday and Tuesday (March 30-31). They will reconnect with students beginning Wednesday, April 1and begin to close out the third marking period.
For students with IEPs or Section 504 Plans, we will work with families to maximize their individualized specially designed instruction or to implement their Section 504 accommodations to the fullest extent possible. Beginning Wednesday, April 1, we will reconnect with you to discuss individualized supports. More information on our processes beginning next week is below. As additional information and guidance is provided by the federal, state and local educational and health departments, we will keep you informed.
Virtual IEP and Section 504 Meetings
· Our staff will be working to schedule virtual IEP and Section 504 meetings with critical team members to implement continuity of learning.
· Meetings will be held via conference call or through Google Meet or Google Hangouts.
· Case managers will contact you during the week of March 30 to discuss your child’s individualized plan for continuity of learning.
· Documents will be sent to you before and after meetings. If you do not have access to a computer and need hard copies of documents, please let your child’s case manager know when they contact you.
· You will receive instructions for how to participate in the virtual meeting along with all documents to be discussed at the meeting.
Academic Supports for Students
· Your child’s case manager will contact you next week to discuss and assess the individualized supports and strategies necessary for your child to access the continuity of learning plan required to implement IEP goals or 504 Plan accommodations.
· Through this initial contact, a schedule of ongoing check-ins, provision of resources, and expectations for parent communication will be established.
· Content for students is being developed with accessibility standards. Students with disabilities will be able to access assistive technology outlined in their IEPs or Section 504 Plans through the MCPS-provided Chromebooks, with such accessibility features such as Google Read & Write, EquatlO for math and other embedded features within the Google Suite.
· IEP and Section 504 teams will work with families to provision additional assistive technologies if needed during this time period.
Special Education Teacher/Paraeducator Supports
Special education teachers will co-plan with general education teachers and co-teach when applicable. Special education teachers will collaborate with special education paraeducators to determine what supports the paraeducator will provide to your child.
Academic support for students working towards alternative learning outcomes will include a modified schedule and materials. To support the alternative education framework for students working towards a certificate of completion, the Office of Special Education has customized a schedule and accompanying curriculum materials to meet their needs. Your child’s case manager will provide a brief overview of this modified schedule. There are time frames built in for supporting students so that special education teachers in programs such as School Community-based, Autism and Learning for Independence will be able to reinforce, reteach and provide modified lessons.
Access to computer-based academic interventions, including, but not limited to, i-Ready Math, Systems 44 and Math 180 will be available.
Section 504 Accommodations
During the continuity of learning, teachers will implement the accommodations on your child’s Section 504 Plan to the maximum extent appropriate to ensure access to this modified curriculum.
Assessments and Evaluation
· If your student is currently in the process of initial eligibility or reevaluation, it may become necessary to adjust the original timelines for completion of assessments.
· Evaluators may contact you to explain the formal assessments that can be done virtually and/or to gather information for the evaluation, such as parent and student interviews.
· Evaluations that require an in-person assessment will be postponed and rescheduled once schools reopen.
· Please work with your child’s case manager if you have individual questions around evaluation.
Related Service Provision
· Related service providers may include occupational therapists, physical therapists, school counselors, school psychologists, social workers and speech language pathologists.
· Depending on the current related services on your child’s IEP, the applicable related service provider(s) will contact you in the upcoming weeks to discuss individual supports for those related service(s).
· Some hands-on related services may be unsafe to deliver during the continuity of the learning plan.
· Parents/guardians of students with related services on their IEPs should expect one or more of the following: individually modified direct services to students, consultative services to the IEP team; strategies for a family coaching model; and/or tele-visits.
· Depending on the current consultative related services on your child’s Section 504 Plan, the applicable related service provider(s) will contact you in the upcoming weeks to discuss the individual supports for the related consultative service(s) on your child’s current Section 504 Plan.
· Related service providers will be available to support students and families by responding to questions and reaching out to students by phone, text or email.
· Transition services are to be completed annually for students with IEPs beginning at age 14 (or age 13 if turning 14 in the IEP year).
· For high school students, transition support teachers will contact you in the upcoming weeks to discuss individual supports for the transition activities in your child’s current IEP.
· For middle school students, special education resource teachers will contact you in the upcoming weeks to discuss individual supports for the transition activities in your child’s current IEP.
· MCPS staff will explain how employment skills for transition activities related to employment or community-based instruction will be addressed as a result of the business restrictions mandated by Governor Larry Hogan.
Thank you for your understanding and ongoing commitment to making the safety of our students, staff and school communities a priority.
Regular updates will be shared with families on the MCPS Coronavirus Continuity of Learning webpage. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education have developed specific guidance for special education to support school teams.