This page was updated on Aug. 28, 2020.

  1. How and should ARD/504 committees address least restrictive environment in all the possible learning environments (in-person, remote, hybrid) for 2020-21? (8/20/20)
  2. What other issues should the ARD committee be addressing for 2020-21? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  3. If a district or charter closes for an extended period of time to address the COVID-19 outbreak, must the district provide services for students protected by IDEA or Section 504? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  4. Should school districts continue to provide services, or conduct evaluation activities during mandatory school closures or shelter in place orders? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  5. Should school districts continue to provide services to students served by special education who are already receiving homebound services due to a significant health concern? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  6. Is a shift to remote learning considered a change of placement? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  7. If a child receives instructional services in a self-contained placement during on-campus learning, would revision to the services be needed if all learning occurs remotely? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  8. If a child needs a change in special education services and such changes would equate to a non commensurate school day for the child, would this need to be included in the IEP? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  9. How can special education and related services, as documented in the IEP, be provided during remote or hybrid instruction? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  10. Can we use IDEA funds to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) or other pandemic related specialty equipment for students served by special education? (8/28/20)
  11. How should districts handle situations in which family members do not respond to communications or respond to families who have indicated that they will not be able facilitate the distance learning options being offered? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  12. Is there guidance on providing occupational and physical therapy to students while schools are closed? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  13. Is there guidance on providing speech language therapy services to students while schools are closed? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  14. If a paraprofessional (i.e., instructional aide) works with a child remotely, does this time count toward IEP service minutes? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  15. If a child fails to make progress when accessing instruction remotely with the current IEP services, would the ARD committee be required to revise the IEP? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  16. Is there guidance on progress monitoring for special education students? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  17. If a student has been referred for potential special education eligibility and school has closed, are the federal/state required timelines for evaluation still in effect? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  18. Are school districts still held to the 30 calendar day timeline requirements regarding initial eligibility determination, IEP, and placement decision ARD committee meetings upon completion of a Full and Individual Initial Evaluations in times of emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  19. Should ARD committees move forward with special education eligibility decisions if a Full and Individual Initial Evaluation (FIIE) has not yet been completed due to concerns over the current COVID-19 pandemic response? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  20. What if a student’s annual Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) date is not met due to school closures or other COVID-19 pandemic response related issues? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  21. What if the members of the ARD committee disagree about an IEP? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  22. If an ARD committee had begun the process of evaluating a student for exit from special education services prior to school closures, but is not able to complete the evaluation due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic response, are they allowed to move forward with exiting a student without completing the evaluation? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  23. Is there any guidance on providing extended school year services for special education students? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  24. How should school districts count contact hours for virtual instruction for ESY reimbursement submissions? (8/28/20)​​​​​​​
  25. What about compensatory services? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  26. How is the need for compensatory services determined? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  27. What resources are there to help with supporting at-home Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) Intervention? (8/20/20)​​​​​​​
  28. Are school districts required to continue services to students identified, and receiving services for dyslexia and currently being served by special education or under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973? (8/20/20)
  29. Will the timeline for the emergency rule requiring rising first grade students to participate in the required reading assessment within the first 20 school days be extended due to issues related to at home learning in the 20-21 school year? (8/28/20)

The answers to questions we've compiled do not constitute legal advice. The situation is changing rapidly, and key factors will differ from school district to school district. This information will be updated as new details emerge, but we encourage TCTA members with specific questions to call our staff attorneys at 888-879-8282. Members with general inquiries can submit them through the Ask-a-Lawyer portal.

For more COVID-19 FAQs about 2020-21, click here

Special Education

How and should ARD/504 committees address least restrictive environment in all the possible learning environments (in-person, remote, hybrid) for 2020-21?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Students with Disabilities Planning Supports Guidebook (8/7/20), Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) and Section 504 committees need to consider and document the plan in the IEP or Section 504 plan for the provision of FAPE in the least restrictive environment (LRE) for in-person, remote, and hybrid learning environments. This will allow for a seamless transition to be made should a required change to the learning environment occur.

According to TEA’s COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), in many cases, instructional accommodations may be met in an online environment by providing additional supports, such as individualized telephone or video conferencing. School districts should consider how current accommodations and modifications are provided in a physical classroom setting (i.e. extra time, redirection, small group, among others) and what this would look like in a virtual environment.”

Further, according to TEA, the Special Education Contingency Plan form may be used to document the special education services that are feasible and safe to provide to an individual student while she or he is receiving remote instruction. The information recorded in the Special Education Contingency Plan must come from the student’s most recent IEP agreed upon by the student’s ARD committee. (Note that there is not a requirement to use this form. It is presented as a resource or an example. School districts could choose to include the same documentation in an individual student’s IEP in another format.)

TEA recommends that the Special Education Contingency Plan be included as part of the student’s IEP to ensure that the student’s family and educators are aware of, and agree with, the services the student will receive during remote instruction. By doing so, there would be limited need, if any, to convene an ARD committee meeting or to amend the student’s IEP if a student moves back and forth between campus instruction and remote instruction, as there would be one plan of service in place for when the student is receiving instruction in the campus setting and another plan of service for when the student is receiving remote instruction.

The student’s parent/ guardian and the school district may agree to amend the IEP as set out at 34 CFR §300.324 to include the Special Education Contingency Plan in the IEP so long as the amendment is done after the student’s annual ARD committee meeting and does not change the student’s educational placement.

If the inclusion of the Special Education Contingency Plan in the IEP through the amendment process cannot take place or if the annual review of the student’s IEP is due, the parent/guardian and school district must convene an ARD committee meeting to make the applicable changes to the student’s IEP. In this case, the LEA must follow all federal and state requirements related to ARD committee meetings and as set forth in 19 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §89.1050.

In either situation, the school district must also ensure that requirements set out in 34 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §300.503, regarding prior written notice, are met.

According to TEA, if a school is closed it is determined that an IEP needs to be changed or adjusted, school districts/charters should continue to follow local policies. The ARD committee may meet by teleconference or other means (if all members are able) to determine if some, or all, of the identified services can be provided through alternate or additional methods. Once the school reopens, the ARD committee must determine whether, and to what extent, compensatory services are needed.

In addition to documenting services to be provided during remote instruction, the Special Education Contingency Plan may also be used to assist the ARD committee in determining what, if any, compensatory services the student may need once remote instruction ends.

What other issues should the ARD committee be addressing for 2020-21?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Students with Disabilities Planning Supports Guidebook (8/7/20), some students may have other components or supplements as part of their IEPs. School districts must ensure that those components or supplements are included in the Special Education Contingency Plan as needed. The IEP components or supplements required by statute or regulation may be found in the IEP Model Form.

A student’s need for assistive technology must also be considered by his or her ARD committee. The ARD committee must consider the student’s need for AT and how AT needs may shift depending on whether the student is being instructed in person, virtually, or both.

If a district or charter closes for an extended period of time to address the COVID-19 outbreak, must the district provide services for students protected by IDEA or Section 504?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the IDEA, Section 504, and Title II of the ADA do not specifically address a situation in which elementary and secondary schools are closed for an extended period of time (generally more than 10 consecutive days) because of exceptional circumstances, such as an outbreak of a particular disease.

If a local education agency closes its schools to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, and does not provide any educational services to the general student population, then an LEA would not be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period of time. Once school resumes, the LEA must make every effort to provide special education and related services to the child in accordance with the child’s individualized education program (IEP) or, for students entitled to FAPE under Section 504, consistent with a plan developed to meet the requirements of Section 504. 

TEA has provided additional guidance regarding special education services. Click here to view it.

Additionally, the USDE issued a clarification that if the district/charter continues to offer instruction to students via online instruction, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner they are typically provided. “While some schools might choose to safely, and in accordance with state law, provide certain IEP services to some students in person, it may be unfeasible or unsafe for some institutions, during current emergency school closures, to provide hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or tactile sign language educational services. Many disability-related modifications and services may be effectively provided online. These may include, for instance, extensions of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and many speech or language services through video conferencing.”

USDE also noted that “where, due to the global pandemic and resulting closures of schools, there has been an inevitable delay in providing services — or even making decisions about how to provide services — IEP teams (as noted in the March 12, 2020, guidance) must make an individualized determination whether and to what extent compensatory services may be needed when schools resume normal operations.”

Although federal law requires distance instruction to be accessible to students with disabilities, it does not mandate specific methodologies. “Where technology itself imposes a barrier to access or where educational materials simply are not available in an accessible format, educators may still meet their legal obligations by providing children with disabilities equally effective alternate access to the curriculum or services provided to other students. For example, if a teacher who has a blind student in her class is working from home and cannot distribute a document accessible to that student, she can distribute to the rest of the class an inaccessible document and, if appropriate for the student, read the document over the phone to the blind student or provide the blind student with an audio recording of a reading of the document aloud.”

Additionally, TEA provided in its COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20) that:

“If there are services, accommodations, and modifications required by the student’s IEP that cannot be provide during this time, the student’s ARD committee must determine which services it can provide to meet the student’s needs (34 CFR 300.324(a)(4). Changes in services and accommodations may be made through the IEP amendment process.

According to TEA, if it is determined that an IEP needs to be changed or adjusted, school districts/charters “should continue to follow local policies. The ARD committee may meet by teleconference or other means (if all members are able) to determine if some, or all, of the identified services can be provided through alternate or additional methods. Once the school reopens, the ARD committee must determine whether, and to what extent, compensatory services are needed.

TEA also stated that if a school district/charter school “cannot provide services necessary for the provision of FAPE in either a face to face or virtual environment, the LEA should document carefully what services were not able to be provided to each individual student. This documentation must be detailed enough to enable the ARD committee to later make determinations regarding what compensatory services need to be provided to individual students. LEAs should plan for effective communication with families regarding any services that cannot be provided during the COVID 19 pandemic response.”

On April 22, TEA provided a new resource, Considerations for Selecting Online Education Platforms for Special Populations, and noted that teachers should do their best to incorporate a mix of instructional strategies and not rely on one online platform. In addition, teachers should consider robust discussions and collaborative work via chats and virtual meetings, video and audio clips, and hands-on exercises completed either together or individually.

More information and TCTA’s compilation of resources for teaching students with disabilities online can be viewed here.

Should school districts continue to provide services, or conduct evaluation activities during mandatory school closures or shelter in place orders?

According to TEA’s COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), school districts should comply with all statewide or local orders. This includes but is not limited to school closures and shelter in place orders. As with all decisions made during the COVID-19 pandemic response, school staff will want to prioritize actions based on health and safety first, communication with staff and families, and then consider requirements of IDEA and state law regarding special education.

Additionally per TEA, Gov. Abbott’s April 27 order ending mandatory stay at home restrictions does not change statewide school closure requirements; therefore, districts may not start performing face-to-face evaluations.

Should school districts continue to provide services to students served by special education who are already receiving homebound services due to a significant health concern?

According to TEA’s COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), school districts (LEAs) should prioritize the health and safety of students, staff, and communities in all decisions regarding service provision. As with all other situations, there may be options available to provide instructional and related services to students receiving homebound services leveraging technology and other more nontraditional methods. Reasonable efforts should be made to provide students with FAPE and LEAs should carefully document what was not able to be provided during the COVID-19 pandemic response. This documentation must be detailed enough to enable the ARD committee to later make determinations regarding what compensatory services need to be provided to individual students. LEAs should plan for effective communication with families regarding any services that cannot be provided during the COVID-19 pandemic response.

Is a shift to remote learning considered a change of placement?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Students with Disabilities Planning Supports Guidebook (8/7/20), a change from in-class to remote instruction may not necessarily result in a change of placement. In some cases, remote learning may constitute a change in location. Placement refers to the continuum of alternative placements that are available to meet the needs of a student with a disability. If the change to remote learning substantially affects or materially alters the student’s educational program, it is likely a change in placement. This is an individualized determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis. When in doubt, the school district is encouraged to consult its legal counsel.

If a child receives instructional services in a self-contained placement during on-campus learning, would revision to the services be needed if all learning occurs remotely?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Students with Disabilities Planning Supports Guidebook (8/7/20) , depending  on the child’s individual learning needs, the same services and placement could be implemented via a remote format. If a student demonstrates a need for a change to the IEP placement, an ARD committee meeting would need to be held.

If a child needs a change in special education services and such changes would equate to a non commensurate school day for the child, would this need to be included in the IEP?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Students with Disabilities Planning Supports Guidebook (8/7/20), the answer is yes.  Students with disabilities must have available to them an instructional day commensurate with that of children without disabilities. The length of school day must be specified in the IEP. Decisions regarding a non-commensurate school day are ARD committee decisions based on the individual needs of the child and must be documented in the IEP.

According to TEA, ARD committees may need to adjust the IEP schedule page to document the amount of special education service minutes that the ARD committee has determined will allow the student to progress towards mastery of goals and receive access to and progress in the general curriculum. It may be that students need additional special education minutes outside of the school day and receive either compensatory services or extended day services in order to progress on IEP goals. Decisions must be made on an individual basis consistent with federal and state requirements.

How can special education and related services, as documented in the IEP, be provided during remote or hybrid instruction?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Students with Disabilities Planning Supports Guidebook (8/7/20), teachers and administrators should think about the provision of services in the remote instructional environment in a way that mirrors on-campus lesson planning. In the on-campus classroom, teachers plan for the provision of instruction within the timeframe of the class (e.g., 45 minutes, 60 minutes). Students may spend a portion of that time receiving direct, explicit instruction from the teacher (akin to synchronous delivery) and a portion of that time in which they are working independently, turning in assignments, and receiving feedback (akin to asynchronous instruction).

In order to explain, if asked, how the daily combination of instruction and activities during remote instruction match the frequency and duration of the provision of services set out in a student’s IEP, teachers should document the amount of time that instruction was provided (synchronously or asynchronously as appropriate) and the amount of time that students worked on individual, group, or classroom assignments, received feedback from the teacher, etc.

Can we use IDEA funds to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) or other pandemic related specialty equipment for students served by special education?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Special Education FAQ (8/27/20), IDEA funds may be used for expenditures directly tied to specific needs identified an individual student’s Individual Education Program.

How should districts handle situations in which family members do not respond to communications or respond to families who have indicated that they will not be able facilitate the distance learning options being offered?

TEA included in its COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20) that districts should document all communication with families, including unsuccessful attempts to reach the family. Attempts should be made using multiple communication channels if necessary, and in the method and language most accessible to the individual family.

TEA also notes that districts should carefully document all communication with families where they have indicated that they are not able to, or unwilling to, facilitate distance learning options. In these situations, districts should carefully consider whether practical barriers to participation have been removed to the extent possible. Districts still maintain a responsibility to provide FAPE. ARD committees should convene once schools reopen to consider any need for compensatory, or additional services.

Is there guidance on providing occupational and physical therapy to students while schools are closed?

TEA notes that districts should identify and acknowledge service delivery limitations, while they make and document reasonable efforts to provide students eligible for special education with a Free and Appropriate Public Education. This requirement to “make every effort…” or “make a reasonable effort” does not allow a LEA to decline all services to students eligible for special education and only offer compensatory services at a later time.

TEA has provided Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy Guidance (4/16/20) on how to most effectively move these services to an indirect, consultative model of service delivery in which families/caregivers may implement services.

Is there guidance on providing speech language therapy services to students while schools are closed?

TEA has provided Speech Language Therapy Services Guidance (4/16/20) to help Speech-Language Pathologists continue delivering services to students through remote learning or telepractice.

If a paraprofessional (i.e., instructional aide) works with a child remotely, does this time count toward IEP service minutes?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Students with Disabilities Planning Supports Guidebook (8/7/20), when a classroom paraprofessional is providing services required by a student’s IEP, he/she must do so under the supervision of a certified special education teacher. School districts should pay careful attention to the type of certification a paraprofessional holds when determining their assigned responsibilities. Classroom paraprofessionals (Educational Aides 2 and 3 only) may work with small groups for re-teach, implement IEP supports during the direct teach portion of the lesson, and assist individual students. All of the above responsibilities must occur under the direction of the special education teacher. As long as paraprofessionals are working within their allowable responsibilities, they may provide IEP service minutes, as appropriate. For additional information, please see the publication Working with Paraprofessionals: A Resource for Educators of Students with Disabilities from the Inclusion in Texas Network website.

If a child fails to make progress when accessing instruction remotely with the current IEP services, would the ARD committee be required to revise the IEP?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Students with Disabilities Planning Supports Guidebook (8/7/20), the answer is yes. All of the same federal, state, and local requirements apply during times of full remote instruction just as they do when providing on-campus instruction. If a child is not making progress toward his/her annual goals or in the general education curriculum, the ARD committee must meet to review the IEP to determine if the IEP requires revision.

Is there guidance on progress monitoring for special education students?

On April 14, TEA provided additional information on best practices in on Progress Monitoring for special education students, and in measuring the effectiveness of academic and behavioral interventions

According to TEA’s April 14 Providing Counseling as a Related Service, documentation and data will be critical for ARD committees to review once traditional schooling resumes. Be sure to keep progress monitoring notes in relation to the skills and goals that you are working on.

  • Document the student’s skills and progress prior to the school closure (what was the most recent progress update/ information from your counseling notes and/or IEP goal progress updates?)
  • Keep detailed records of the services that were provided and reasons for any missed services or deviations from the Service Delivery Plan
  • Document student progress regularly. Be prepared to compare the progress from prior to school closure to progress during remote services.
  • Keep the following in mind:
    • It is possible that the student may show new behaviors due to the stress of school closure or regress on goals already mastered. Document these changes in behaviors and skills.
    • For some students with school anxiety or refusal, progress or reduction of anxiety/behavior may be observed/reported. Document these observations, as this will be needed for any school reentry plans that may be necessary once school resumes. For students with a history of school refusal and/or anxiety around school, the long break from traditional school may create the need for a reentry plan.

If a student has been referred for potential special education eligibility and school has closed, are the federal/state required timelines for evaluation still in effect?

According to TEA’s COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), the answer is yes. In situations in which school districts are “Closed, Preparing” or “Closed, Temporary,” state evaluation timelines halt as these timelines are based on school days (see TEA’s School Finance FAQ, March 25). Per TEA, in situations in which school districts are “Closed, instructing” or “Open,” the 45 school-day timeline requirements of Texas Education Code sec. 29.004 apply.

Additionally, on March 16, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights published this fact sheet acknowledging that evaluations might be delayed due to issues related to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, per TEA’s COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), school districts (LEAs) should also consider ways to use distance technology to the extent possible to provide child find, hold initial and annual ARD committee meetings, and/or evaluation/eligibility meetings, if the LEA members and parents are available but not able to attend in person. Continuing to complete ARD committee and evaluation/eligibility meetings will help decrease the workload when school resumes. If required members of the committee and/or parents are not available or believe their participation is impacted by the lack of an in-person meeting, LEAs should document the reason and complete the activity in a timely manner following the ending of school closures.

Are school districts still held to the 30 calendar day timeline requirements regarding initial eligibility determination, IEP, and placement decision ARD committee meetings upon completion of a Full and Individual Initial Evaluations in times of emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic?

According to TEA’s COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), the answer is yes. Requirements related to the 30 calendar day timeline for initial eligibility determination, IEP, and placement decision ARD committee meetings still apply. The ARD committee may meet by teleconference or other means (if all members are able) when necessary, to meet this required timeline.

TEA expanded upon this in its April 2 ARD Committee Considerations During COVID-19 as follows:

If there are deviations from legally established timelines, school districts should communicate with parents/guardians and document in the student’s folder all reasonable efforts made to follow timelines.

  • If the timeline has passed for an initial ARD committee meeting and related decisions, plan to hold the meeting as soon as possible, following the above guidance.
  • It is not recommended to hold an initial ARD committee meeting for the purposes of making eligibility determinations based on an incomplete or inconclusive initial FIE due to a lack of face-to-face testing opportunities.

Until normal school operations resume, LEAs should review the evaluations currently in process and/or initiated but not completed by having teams of qualified professionals determine the following:

  • Which, if any, of the components of the evaluation have been completed and/or initiated.
  • If any components of the evaluation can be completed remotely or without face-to-face interaction during COVID-19 response.
  • If there are segments that the team has determined can be completed remotely, plan to discuss with the parents/guardians in order to:
    • Develop a plan with the parents/guardians if determined completion of the evaluation must be delayed until normal operation resumes. Plan should reflect completing the FIIE as soon as possible.
  • Document communication to parents/guardians regarding the plan for FIIE completion when normal operations resume.
  • Consider what additional general education interventions and supports may be initiated for the student based on the suspected disability(ies) or evaluation information collected thus far. Create a plan to provide intervention and ensure they are carefully documented by the evaluation team.
  • Promptly notify the parent/guardian if some portions of the evaluation can be completed without face-to-face interaction if the parent/guardian consents.
  • Develop a plan with the parent/guardian on how best to obtain the above-mentioned information.
  • Carefully document all stages of this process, from the receipt of initial consent to what remains for completion in order to finish the FIIE as required.

Should ARD committees move forward with special education eligibility decisions if a Full and Individual Initial Evaluation (FIIE) has not yet been completed due to concerns over the current COVID-19 pandemic response?

According to TEA’s COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), the answer is no.

“Special education eligibility determinations for students should not be made without consideration of all relevant data points that would be provided in an FIIE. Eligibility decisions, and any subsequent IEP development decisions require consideration of all relevant data in order to ensure that sound decisions are made in the best interest of the student. LEAs should continue to provide all appropriate general education interventions and supports to struggling students while they are going through the referral process and eligibility determinations are being made. To reiterate what is stated elsewhere in this document, LEA and school staff will want to prioritize decisions and actions based on health and safety first, communication with staff and families, and then consider requirements of IDEA and state law.”

TEA further provided information regarding how school districts should document services when an FIIE cannot be completed:

“Campuses should have teams that convene to discuss individual student progress in their respective intervention programs. General education interventions and services for students that are in the referral process but not yet determined eligible to receive special education services should be discussed, documented, and monitored by this group.”

TEA expanded on this in its April 2 Evaluation Considerations During COVID-19, in which it provides a table to serve as a resource to assist school districts in thinking through various areas of evaluations (initial and re-evaluations) that could potentially be completed remotely.

What if a student’s annual Admission Review and Dismissal (ARD) date is not met due to school closures or other COVID-19 pandemic response related issues?

According to TEA’s COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), if there are deviations from legally established timelines, school districts should document in the student’s folder all reasonable efforts made to follow timelines.

TEA expanded on this in its April 2 ARD Committee Considerations During COVID-19, in which it provided that if there are deviations from legally established timelines, school districts should communicate with parents/guardians and document in the student’s folder all reasonable efforts made to follow timelines.

  • If the timeline has passed for an annual meeting, plan to hold the meeting as soon as possible, following the above guidance.
  • The ARD committee meeting can be broken into two discussion areas:
    • The first section would be reflective of which support and services provide FAPE when the student is physically at school.
    • The second section can reflect what FAPE looks like during “at home Learning” during the COVID-19 response. An ending date would not be required, but documentation would clearly state that the COVID-19 response plan is temporary and will cease to be in effect once students are able to return to school facilities.

What if the members of the ARD committee disagree about an IEP?

According to TEA’s April 2 ARD Committee Considerations During COVID-19, if the ARD committee finds disagreement on a required element of an IEP related to how support and services should take place during at-home learning, proceed as you typically would by offering a 10-day recess and scheduling a reconvene meeting.

Signatures of agreement or disagreement on an IEP may not be possible for all attendees because of the virtual nature of the meeting.

  • Plan to communicate with all virtual attendees how you will document agreement or disagreement on the signature page.
  • Clearly document any member agreements or disagreements in the deliberations of the ARDC.
  • If parent email is provided as an option for agreements and disagreements, parents/guardians should receive a copy of the documentation used to register their signatures and agreement or disagreement.

If an ARD committee had begun the process of evaluating a student for exit from special education services prior to school closures, but is not able to complete the evaluation due to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic response, are they allowed to move forward with exiting a student without completing the evaluation?

According to TEA's COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), the committee is not allowed to exit a student without a complete evaluation. Federal regulations [34 CFR sec. 300.305(e)] require the district to evaluate the student in accordance with IDEA’s evaluation procedures before determining whether the student is no longer a student with a disability. Thus, the decisions to exit the student from special education services must be informed by a complete evaluation of all relevant areas of student performance. Once school resumes, the ARD committee may continue the evaluation process and make determinations about an exit from services once all the relevant information has been collected.

Is there any guidance on providing extended school year services for special education students?

Yes. TEA issued Compensatory Services and Extended School Year Guidance on May 14. According to the guidance, extended school year (ESY) services are required only if the ARD committee determines and documents in the IEP that, in one or more critical areas addressed in the current IEP goals and objectives, the student has exhibited, or reasonably may be expected to exhibit, severe or substantial regression that cannot be recouped within a reasonable period of time. In Texas, severe and substantial regression means that the student has been, or will be, unable to maintain one or more acquired critical skills in the absence of ESY services. 

How should school districts count contact hours for virtual instruction for ESY reimbursement submissions?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Special Education FAQ (8/27/20), only hours of synchronous communication between school staff and eligible students may be counted as ESY contact hours for purposes of reimbursement.

What about compensatory services? 

According to TEA's Compensatory Services and Extended School Year Guidance (5/14/20), compensatory services provide a student with a disability the educational services needed to make up for skills or learning that have been lost when services described in an IEP were not provided. Per TEA, given the uncertainty about what regular school operations will look like in the near future and in light of the fact that school districts have continued to provide some level of instruction and services to students throughout the closure of physical school buildings, an ARD committee may in some circumstances consider whether it makes sense to move forward with determinations either virtually or in person over the summer months.

ARD committees considering the provision of compensatory services remotely should carefully consider how effective remote services have been for individual students thus far and make adjustments to delivery methods and supports to ensure that the most effective services possible are provided to individual students. 

How is the need for compensatory services determined? 

According to TEA's Compensatory Services and Extended School Year Guidance (5/14/20), the following considerations should be given:

  • If the student’s data show that the student has not lost progress, or that the student will be able to make up for the lost progress in a short amount of time without the need for compensatory services, then the ARD committee might determine that the student does not need compensatory services.
  • If the student’s data show that the student has lost progress, then the ARD committee must consider and, as applicable, include in the student’s IEP the type, location, duration, and frequency of the services the student needs to make up for that lost progress. The decision must be made based on data regarding student progress and should not be misconstrued to necessarily require an hour for hour or minute for minute makeup in services.
  • If a student experienced a pause during the initial evaluation process for special education eligibility due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic response, and is later found to be eligible for special education services, then the ARD committee should consider whether there is a need for services that address the delay in receiving special education services.
  • If a student experienced a pause for reevaluation or an interruption in the actual testing midway through the reevaluation process, and is later found to be eligible for new special education services, then the ARD committee should consider whether there is also a need for services that address the delay in receiving the new special education services.
  • If a students experienced an interruption in the delivery of compensatory services that were decided as part of the complaint process, mediation, or a due process hearing, then the ARD committee should consider whether there is need for additional compensatory services to address the delay in the student receiving other compensatory services as the result of a previous action.

What resources are there to help with supporting at-home Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) Intervention?

TEA released a Multi-tiered System of Support Intervention Framework on April 7 that consists of Guiding Questions for Educators Providing MTSS Intervention, addressing the following topics: academic support, behavioral support, delivery and progress monitoring/documenting. According to the framework, “the primary focus of at home intervention support should be continued practice at the student’s current levels and solidifying requisite skills needed to continue progress toward MTSS intervention goals.”

On April 14, TEA provided additional information on best practices in on Progress Monitoring for special education students, and in measuring the effectiveness of academic and behavioral interventions

Are school districts required to continue services to students identified, and receiving services for dyslexia and currently being served by special education or under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973? 

According to TEA’s COVID-19 Special Education Q&A (5/27/20), the answer is yes. As described in the March 12 guidance from OSEP, school districts must make reasonable efforts to provide a free and appropriate public education to students served by special education or served under section 504 even in extreme circumstances such as the current COVID-19 pandemic response. School districts who are not able to provide the necessary level of services for any reason, should document carefully what should have been provided and was not to allow for effective decisions regarding compensatory services to be made by ARD committees and Section 504 teams when the situation gets back to normal.

Additionally, per TEA, up to 20% of a districts HB 3 dyslexia funds can be spent to contract with a private provider to provide supplemental academic services. On April 9, Gov. Greg Abbott waived restrictions related to teletherapy for dyslexia therapists holding licensure through the Texas Department of Licensure and Regulation. Therefore, school districts should be advised that there are no state or federal requirements that preclude the provision of dyslexia services to students in a virtual environment. While the 2018 Dyslexia Handbook indicates that computer programs should not be used as the primary method of delivery for dyslexia instruction, dyslexia services or therapy delivered by appropriately trained staff in a virtual classroom environment are not “computer programs.”

Will the timeline for the emergency rule requiring rising first grade students to participate in the required reading assessment within the first 20 school days be extended due to issues related to at home learning in the 20-21 school year?

According to TEA’s SY 20-21 Special Education FAQ (8/27/20), the answer is no. Incoming first graders in 2020-21, who were not assessed for dyslexia at the end of the 2019-20 school year as kindergartners, must be assessed with a literacy assessment tool (not a full dyslexia screener), as per TEC 28.006, within the first 20 school days. Administering a literacy assessment within this crucial window will ensure that teachers have accurate, timely information to inform and individualize instruction. This data will be used to determine the Early Reading Indicator Code for Fall Submission. Information about assessments LEAs may use to fulfill this requirement is linked here. The assessments listed here include remote administration options for students receiving instruction virtually.