Reopening 2021 → What to Expect: Special Education Programs
Implementation of Early Intervention and Special Education Services in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR), and Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) guidance
Early intervention and special education services will be provided to students from birth to age 21. For students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), in-person specially designed instruction and related and support services will be delivered in accordance with what is documented on the IEP. The district has developed processes to meet the special education mandates of federal and state law. These mandates include timelines and documentation associated with assessment, Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meetings, and the delivery of specially designed instruction. Students returning in the fall will have their full IEP implemented and all services provided. IEP teams will follow all legal procedures to implement services and/or convene required Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or IEP meetings if changes to the IEP are necessary based after a review of the current data.
Students receiving special education services will follow the same return-to-school guidance as other students. All instructional and assistive technologies needed by the students will be provided. Professional development opportunities and coaching will be available for interventions, progress monitoring, masking strategies, and behavioral and social/emotional supports to ensure students can access, be involved, and make progress. MCPS followed the guidance recommendations from the MSDE Technical Assistance Bulletin: Recovery Efforts: Addressing the Provision of FAPE through Alternative Service Delivery Models for Students with Disabilities during the Re-Opening of Schools.
Screening and evaluations for students ages 3–5 will be conducted virtually and in-person. Screening and assessment measures will include an extensive parent/guardian interview, a review of the preschool teacher questionnaire and other documents, when available. Standardized measures, including parent/guardian rating scales, are administered virtually and/or in-person given the parameters of each assessment and the individual needs of the student. Direct observations of the student in their home environment are conducted when feasible.
Screening and evaluations for students in Grades kindergarten–12 and/or through age 21 are conducted virtually and in-person. Standardized measures including parent/guardian rating scales are administered virtually and/or in person given the parameters of each assessment and the individualized needs of the student.
Evaluations conducted by occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech/language pathologists and other related service providers will be conducted virtually and in-person. Evaluations may include parent/guardian interviews, student observations in their home environment, and standardized measures as appropriate.
MCPS continues to offer services to students in the Least Restrictive Environment. School teams were encouraged to consider the opportunities offered to all students with a continued emphasis on maximizing opportunities for students with disabilities to learn and make progress with their nondisabled peers, and access and participate in the school community. MCPS made recommendations to schools teams and shared the MSDE document: TIPs for Teaching and Learning and the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) in Varied Service Delivery Models.
A student is eligible for compensatory recovery services (CRS) when it is determined that the IEP was not or could not be appropriately developed and/or implemented and the student demonstrates negative impact (i.e., a regression of skills or lack of progress in the curriculum or on IEP goals). Ongoing progress monitoring is essential for determining when changes to the student’s IEP and/or eligibility for compensatory services as a result of a loss of a Free Appropriate Public Education are necessary.
MCPS makes an individual determination for every student with an IEP regarding CRS and MCPS has coordinated appropriate services with eligible families. CRS remediate the loss of learning and/or regression, but may not reflect the nature, amount and frequency of the services that were unable to be provided during the period of school closure.
IEP team members, including the parent/guardian, determine which learning areas were negatively impacted, the extent of the impact on learning loss, and the appropriate remedy.
In accordance with Senate Bill 300/House Bill 714: Learning Continuity Plan, MCPS has and continues to develop continuity of learning in emergency situations in active IEP and Section 504 plans. This process includes input from parents/guardians on how to best operate during emergency conditions and allows a review of the successes and failures of the IEP during the 2020–2021 school year and amendments to the IEP based on that review.
For those students who meet the eligibility guidelines for accommodations under Section 504, a Section 504 Plan will be developed for the student to use during in-person instruction. For students with existing Section 504 Plans, required Section 504 meetings will continue to be completed in-person or virtually. Evaluations for the purposes of initial eligibility and reevaluation will continue, and needed assessments will resume face-to-face and completed in a manner consistent with the health and safety needs of students and staff members. The student’s 504 Plan case manager will notify teachers who work directly with the student about the Plan and coordinate reviews on an annual basis or as needed.
Montgomery County Infants and Toddlers Program (MCITP) provided services virtually through an adult coaching model throughout the school closure. Parents/guardians were provided with the technology required to fully participate in services, including access to Wi-Fi, when needed. Evaluations and eligibility determination continued to be provided virtually. When schools reopened, parents/guardians were offered the option of continuing with services virtually or returning to in-person services. MCPS followed the suggested guidance from MSDE: Continuity of the IFSP for Young Children (Birth – Age 4) with Developmental Delays/Disabilities and their Families during Extended School/Agency Closure due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.