Update on Opening Plans for Special Education Students

Dear Parents,

As many of you know already, the school district will be taking a phased approach to instruction this Fall. For many of our special education families, this has prompted a lot of questions about the delivery of IEP supports and services during the various phases.  In an effort to provide some clarification for our families, please find some informational bullet points below.

DESE Guidance and Implementation during Phases 1-3:

  1. The attached document (DESE Guidance on Fall 2020 Special Education Services) was provided to districts by DESE to outline how IEP services should be addressed during the Fall re-opening of schools.  BPS is following these guidelines unless they are subsequently updated and changed by DESE.
  2. On September 16th, Phase 1 will begin in Belmont with the remote provision of instruction.  During this phase, all students will be receiving instruction remotely except for students defined by DESE as having “significant and complex needs”.  The DESE guidance document includes an overview of “significant and complex needs” on the top of page 3. There you will find the criteria used to determine who students with “significant and complex needs” actually are.  Using this criteria for your own child, most students served in-district in Belmont would not be considered one of these students with “significant and complex needs”.  The PL3 form referred to in the document is a quantitative analysis of needs based on the amount of hours of grid services and the placement designation.  This is a special education record form in in every student’s file, but not one usually sent to parents as part of the IEP process.  In your child’s IEP, you can find some of this information on the PL1 (the placement page).  This is the form that provides some the information used for the PL3, and is the one you would be more familiar with.  The rest of the information in the PL3 comes from the IEP grid page (hours of service per cycle vs total number of hours in a cycle).  Most families will notice that their student is considered a full inclusion student, being out of the classroom less than 21% of the time (that’s where the grid hours/cycle vs total hours/cycle come in).  This designation alone typically results in a DESE categorization of low needs.
  3. During Phase 1, if your child is determined to have “significant and complex needs”, they will receive in-person instruction, supports and services to the fullest extent safely possible.
  4. During Phase 1, although instruction will be remote for most students, our goal is to provide services and supports to our special education students in the same synchronous delivery format that they will be receiving their general education instruction.  In short, although phase one may be remote, your child’s schedule and service times and durations should look similar to what it would look like if they were to physically be in school.  Principals and staff are working on a scheduling format to allow for this.
  5. Although your child may not be determined to have “significant and complex needs”, liaisons will be working with principals to develop priority lists of students with an increased level of need based on the amount of hours of IEP supports and services outlined in the IEP.  High priority will be given to the students on each liaison’s caseload in accordance with the amount of support and service hours that student receives.  These students, along with others determined to be high needs based on DESE’s additional criteria indicated on the top of page 3 in the attached document, may be seen in person during phase 1, or included in the group of students to be seen in-person during the start of Phase 2.
  6. Phase 2 will continue with remote instruction and services for most students, but will also include in-person supports and services for our next level of at risk and vulnerable students as outlined above.
  7. In phase 3, a Full Hybrid Learning format, all students will be receiving both in-person and remote instruction.  Likewise, all IEP students would also receive their IEP supports and services in this format, with some being remotely delivered and others being delivered in-person.

Other Considerations:

  1. Regression: Once liaisons start working with students, they will begin to assess the degree of regression that your child may have experienced.  While we assume all students have stagnated or regressed to some degree due to the COVID related school closures and our abbreviated school days and services this past Spring, we recognize that some of our students may still have experienced a degree of regression above and beyond their regular education peers.  In these instances, Teams will be assessing student needs and determining what types of services and supports can be provided to address the student’s needs.
  2. Team Meetings: Any team meetings that did not occur during closure last spring will be scheduled for as soon as is feasible for all participants this fall.   Due to the ongoing pandemic, the district has a strong preference for all meetings to be conducted over Google Meet or on the telephone until further notice.
  3. Evaluations: All pending evaluations will move forward as soon as safely possible.  Safety protocols for in-person evaluations are being finalized and are expected to begin soon.  If you have signed consent for an evaluation, you will be contacted to schedule the testing and review the procedures.  With the limits of family and staff availability, evaluations will generally be conducted in the order that signed consents were received.
  4. IEP Format: As the district holds meetings and develops new IEP’s, per DESE’s current guidance, all IEPs will be written in anticipation of returning to school under typical (pre-pandemic) conditions.

Hopefully this information gives you some clarification of how your child’s IEP services and supports will be provided during our phased re-entry to school.  We realize, however, that efforts to clarify some questions and concerns often prompt more questions and concerns.  If that is the case for you, please do not hesitate to reach out.  In general, your child’s liaison is the best source of information for you.  However, we in the Student Services office, as well as the parent volunteers in the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC), are also available to answer questions and try to address concerns for you as best as we can.  You can reach all of us as follows:

Ken Kramer (Director of Student Services) (kkramer@belmont.k12.ma.us)

Jonathan Libby (Assistant Director of Student Services) (jlibby@belmont.k12.ma.us)

Belmont Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) (belmontsepac@gmail.com)