What is the coronavirus (COVID-19)?
There are numerous coronaviruses. Many infect animals such as bats, camels, cats, etc. Coronaviruses can also cause infections in humans and, in most instances, result in a mild upper respiratory infection (common cold). Prior to COVID-19, two other coronaviruses (SARS, MERS) were known to cause more serious lower respiratory infection (pneumonia). COVID-19 is a new virus strain that is believed to have originated around the city of Wuhan, China, and started spreading among people in late 2019.
How does the virus spread?
This virus most likely originally emerged from an animal source, but can now spread from person-to-person. At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people. Coronaviruses generally spread by respiratory droplets generated when a sick person coughs or sneezes. Coronaviruses may survive on surfaces that have been contaminated with respiratory secretions. (For example, a sick person coughs on their hand and then touches a doorknob.) Thus, contaminated surfaces may be another, less common, route of transmission. It should be noted that common disinfectants kill coronaviruses on surfaces.
Accountability and Assessment
Do we still have to administer statewide assessments?
On March 25 the state of Nebraska received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education for 2019-2020 assessments, accountability, school identification, and reporting requirements as originally planned, due to extensive school closures. On March 18, the NDE suspended all statewide assessments (NSCAS) for the 2019-2020 school year. This includes NSCAS – General, Alternate, and ACT.
The NDE is working with ACT to determine if all public high school juniors who would normally take the ACT as part of the statewide assessment may have the opportunity to take the ACT free-of-charge at a later date.
Statewide Assessment has ongoing contact with Nebraska assessment vendor partners regarding available options and potential impacts of any specific decision. NDE will work with districts as situations arise. NDE will stay in regular contact with District Assessment Contacts (DACs).
Are we still required to fill out the Evidence-based Analysis (EBA) this year?
Districts and schools are not required to complete the Evidence-Based Analysis (EBA) for the 2019-2020 school year.
On March 25 the NDE pursued and successfully received federal waivers for assessment and accountability provisions in ESSA to accommodate the suspension of NSCAS assessments. Accountability will look different over the next couple of years with this gap in summative assessments. However, our focus and commitment to equity and support remains unwavering.
Budget and Grants
How will the Nebraska Department of Education provide administrative relief and flexibility for grant reimbursement should a pandemic arise?
The Office of Budget and Grants Management is committed to working with Nebraska schools, districts, and ESUs to provide them with the maximum operational flexibility necessary to continue operations as they recover from extended school or program closures due to public health crisis. The department has identified the following barriers which can impact the reimbursement for allowable grant expenditures during the recovery period.
- Documentation needed to support reimbursement of funds
- Reporting deadlines
- Cash Flow
- Availability of electronic infrastructure to access reporting systems
To the greatest extent possible, the department will take steps to address, find administrative relief, and develop strategies on a case-by-case basis with regard to the impact, estimated recovery period and flexibility within federal, state, and local regulations. We are committed to collaborating with, expediting the work necessary, and encourage all affected parties to contact the department with any requests for assistance. Contact Jen Utemark at email@example.com or 402-471-3323.
What flexibility is offered under ESEA with respect to meeting maintenance of effort (MOE) should a pandemic arise?
There is some flexibility in the MOE provisions in the ESEA per the U.S. Department of Education (September 2018) “Non-Regulatory Guidance on Flexibility and Waivers for Grantees and Program Participants Impacted by Federally Declared Disasters (for Academic School Year 2018-19).
It is important to understand the delay in when the current year’s expenditures are taken into account for MOE determinations. For example, expenditures in school year 2017-2018 (fiscal year (FY) 2017 funds) will not affect MOE determinations until school year 2019-2020 (FY 2019 funds). In 2019-2020, the “preceding fiscal year” for MOE determinations will be expenditures for school year 2017-2018; likewise, expenditures in school year 2017-2018 will be the “second preceding fiscal year” for MOE determinations for school year 2020-2021 (FY 2020 funds). Under the MOE provisions in section 8521(b)(2) of the ESEA, an LEA that does not maintain effort during school year 2017-2018 (i.e., based on expenditures during the July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 period) would not be penalized with a reduction in Federal FY 2019 (school year 2019-2020) ESEA funds unless the LEA also failed to maintain effort in one or more of the five fiscal years preceding July 1, 2017. If an LEA faces a reduction in FY 2019 ESEA funds, the LEA (or the SEA on the LEA’s behalf) may request an MOE waiver under section 8521(c)(1), which gives the department the authority to waive the MOE requirements in the case of a natural disaster or another exceptional or uncontrollable circumstance.
Finally, we note that, under 34 CFR § 299.5(d)(2)(i), an SEA excludes from an ESEA MOE determination supplemental expenditures of State and local funds made as a result of a Presidentially declared disaster. Therefore, if an LEA’s expenditures increase significantly in school year 2017-2018 due to increased spending in response to such a disaster, the SEA will exclude these expenditures from MOE calculations, which will decrease the possibility that a one-time increase in school year 2017-2018 expenditures will cause an LEA to fail to maintain effort in school year 2018-2019 (affecting allocations for the 2020-2021 school year) when expenditures from school year 2018-2019 are compared to school year 2017-2018 expenditures.
Should employees, such as cooks and other staff helping with delivery of meals wear face masks to prevent exposure to COVID-19?
The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A face mask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
The CDC recommends everyday preventive actions for everyone, including service industry workers and customers:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
How do I maintain social distancing in my kitchen and food production area where employees typically work within close distances?
To prevent spread of COVID-19, the CDC is recommending individuals employ social distancing or maintaining approximately six feet from others, when possible. In kitchen and food production area, an evaluation should be made to identify and implement operational changes that increase employee separation. However, social distancing to the full six feet may not be possible.
Workers in the food sector fill critical and essential roles within communities. Promoting the ability of your workers to continue to work during periods of community restrictions, social distances, and closure orders, among others, is crucial to community continuity and community resilience.
The risk of an employee transmitting COVID-19 to another is dependent on distance between employees, the duration of the exposure, and the effectiveness of employee hygiene practices and sanitation. When it’s impractical for employees in these settings to maintain social distancing, effective hygiene practices should be maintained to reduce the chance of spreading the virus.
IMPORTANT: Maintaining social distancing in the absence of effective hygiene practices may not prevent the spread of this virus. Food facilities should be vigilant in their hygiene practices, including frequent and proper hand-washing and routine cleaning of all surfaces.
Has the state of Nebraska received waivers for the provision of school meals?
In preparation for COVID 19 outbreaks the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) has received waivers to allow the provision of meals to children at a school site during unanticipated school closure through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or the National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option (SSO). Under normal circumstances, these meals must be offered in a congregate setting and at a non-school site. However, during a public health emergency due to a virus, social distancing may be necessary to avoid spread of the virus.
Therefore, the NDE waivers will enable approved SFSP sponsors in good standing to serve meals in a non-congregate setting and at school sites during school closures related to the coronavirus under these conditions:
1. Must be an approved SFSP sponsor in good standing to serve meals
a. An SFSP application must be submitted and approved within the CNP system
b. The SFSP application is open and information can be entered now and submitted in anticipation
2. Meal service
a. The meals can only be served at an approved SFSP site
b. Recommend following the SFSP meal pattern (less complicated)
c. Grab & Go (unitized) meals can be served but must include all meal components including milk
d. Claims must be supported by an accurate meal count record
i. Must count the meal as it is being served to student
ii. Cannot back out the “bag count” (number of lunch bags at beginning of meal service – number of lunch bags at end of meal service)
What feeding options are available should individual school buildings be closed for a duration of time?
During unanticipated school closures, State agencies and Program operators may determine that operating the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is a feasible option. Consistent with regular SFSP operations, SFSP sites operating during an unanticipated school closure must be open to all children age 18 and under. Federal regulations prevent the operation of SFSP when school is in session or during unanticipated school closures.
However, the Nebraska Department of Education, Office of Nutrition Services (NDE) has applied for a State-wide waiver that would allow SFSP meals to be served at school sites during unanticipated school closures. School Food Authorities (SFAs) must notify NDE of their intent to provide meals by completing the SFSP application.
In addition to the SFSP option, SFAs operating At-Risk afterschool centers may continue serving meals and snacks through the At-Risk Afterschool Meals component of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). When operating during unanticipated school closures, afterschool centers must continue to meet At-Risk Afterschool requirements, including offering education or enrichment activities. With State agency approval, afterschool centers that normally offer a snack and supper after school may instead choose to offer either lunch and a snack, or breakfast and a snack.
Reference: SP 04-2020, CACFP 03-2020. SFSP 03-2020
If the food supply chain is interrupted do meals still have to meet meal pattern requirements?
If emergency conditions exist that prevents schools from obtaining fluid milk, the State agency may allow service of meals without milk or with an alternate form of milk, such as canned or dry milk. The NDE should be notified of these situations prior to serving.
USDA Regional Office approval is needed in order for school meal programs to serve meals that do not meet the menu planning or meal pattern requirements in disaster situations. Therefore, if changes to other meal component requirements are needed, schools should consult the Nebraska Department of Education Office of Nutrition Services.
Flexibility is allowed with regard to time of meal service and use of offer versus serve. These modifications may be made by School Food Authorities with State agency approval.
Reference: SP 46-2014, CACFP 12-2014, SFSP 18-2014
Will USDA allow leniency if schools are closed and not able to submit their claims for reimbursement within the required time frame?
During disaster situations, School Food Authorities may submit claims beyond the 60-day requirement and are not subject to the one-time exception for late submissions.
Reference: SP 46-2014, CACFP 12-2014, SFSP 18-2014
Can schools that have been approved for non-congregate feeding through SFSP or SSO deliver meals directly to students’ homes?
Yes. If the School Food Authority (SFA) determines there is a need and it is logistically feasible to deliver meals directly to homes, it may do so with state agency approval, adherence to all federal confidentiality requirements, and with all necessary Federal waiver approvals (including an approval for non-congregate feeding). Delivery could be completed by mail or delivery service, or hand-delivered by school staff, volunteers, community organizations, or others. This option is only available to SFA sponsors of school sites due to student confidentiality and logistical requirements. Schools electing to deliver meals may serve only children who are in area eligible locations or who are eligible for free or reduced price meals, as discussed in question 3. Depending on the distribution approach, the state agency may need to request and be approved for a waiver from USDA for time restrictions for meal service under regulations at 7 CFR 225.16(c)(1) and (2), as discussed in question 5. In addition, requirements to establish meal service times at 7 CFR 225.6(c)(2)(i)(B) and (c)(3)(i)(A), must be met. An SFA’s delivery plan with designated times for distribution, when approved by the state agency, would fulfill the requirements to establish meal service times.
What funding is available for meal delivery?
There is no additional reimbursement for home delivery or mobile meals delivery, but related expenses, such as postage or delivery service fees, would be considered an allowable cost under the SFSP or SSO. Delivery costs could also be paid with non-program funds such as state or local funds, or private donations.
Who is eligible to receive home-delivered meals under SFSP and SSO?
Schools operating an open SFSP or SSO site in an area eligible location may deliver meals to all children in their eligible area. Schools operating a closed-enrolled site may enroll children who are certified as eligible for free or reduced price meals, and deliver meals only to the enrolled, eligible children. It is the responsibility of the school to confirm the eligibility of each participating child. All children attending Provision 2, Provision 3, or Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) schools are considered eligible for delivered meals.
What are the requirements for initiating home meal delivery for a household?
Schools must first obtain written consent from households of eligible children (this could include email or other electronic means) that the household wants to receive delivered meals. In addition, schools should confirm the household’s current contact information and the number of eligible children in the household to ensure the correct number of meals are delivered to the correct location.
It is critical that schools protect the confidentiality of students and their households throughout this process. The National School Lunch Act (NSLA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) do not authorize release of household contact information for children without first obtaining the written consent of the child’s parent or guardian. The school must be the entity that makes the first contact about meal delivery with the households of eligible children, and must notify the household if contact information will be shared with an external organization, for example, a local non-profit that will provide meal delivery. Once the school receives written consent from the parent or guardian to release contact information, the schools may share the information with other organizations involved with meal delivery. If the school is using a private vendor, then under the regulations implementing the NSLA, they must have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the vendor concerning the confidentiality requirements. The MOU should include information such as what will be disclosed, how the information will be used, how the information will be protected from unauthorized uses and disclosures, and penalties for unauthorized disclosure. For further requirements, see 7 CFR 225.15(k)(1)-(2). The school must ensure data is handled appropriately at all times and by all organizations involved with meal delivery to safeguard household confidentiality.
How many home-delivered meals per child may be delivered at once?
The maximum number of meals that may be offered each child remains the same as under SFSP or SSO: up to two meals, or one meal and one snack, per child, per day, in any combination except lunch and supper. The state agency may approve a distribution approach that includes meals for multiple days, up to one week at a time. The state agency should consider the expected duration of the school closure and the capacity of the SFA to execute such an approach effectively, including meeting state or local food safety requirements. In order to approve an alternative distribution approach, the state agency must request and be approved for a waiver from USDA for time restrictions for meal service, under regulations at 7 CFR 225.16(c)(1) and (2). In addition, requirements to establish meal service times at 7 CFR 225.6(c)(2)(i)(B) and (c)(3)(i)(A), must be met. An SFA’s delivery plan with designated times for distribution, when approved by the state agency, would fulfill the requirements to establish meal service times.
Do home-delivered meals need to be shelf-stable?
No. The type of meal offered will depend on the resources and capacity of the site. Those that are able to prepare ready-to-eat meals and have the capacity to deliver meals daily in a way that meets state or local food safety requirements may do so. Home-delivered meals still have to meet all meal pattern requirements of the SFSP or SSO.
Does the child need to be present for home meal delivery?
No. As long as the school has obtained the household’s written consent to deliver meals and has verified the current address, the student does not need to be present at the time of delivery. If the meals are shelf-stable, no one need be present, as long as the address has been verified. Please consider state and local food safety requirements and best practices.
If a household has children in multiple schools, can the schools coordinate to provide one home delivery for all children in the household?
Yes. To the extent feasible, SFAs or schools are encouraged to coordinate their deliveries to make best use of their resources.
What options do schools have if the school facilities are closed but they continue to offer online learning?
If school buildings are closed unexpectedly during the school year due to reasons provided in 42 U.S.C. 1761(c)(1), USDA considers this an unanticipated school closure. Even if virtual learning is provided, if the building is closed and students cannot attend their physical school location for classes, SFAs and community organizations (COs) may operate SFSP and SSO programs as permitted under program requirements. SFSP and SSO open sites must meet area eligibility criteria, i.e., be located in an area where at least 50 percent of the children are low income. For sites that are not area eligible, the SFA or CO may operate a closed-enrolled site, basing the site eligibility on the percentage of enrolled children being eligible for free and reduced price meals.
If an SFA is considering school to be in session and wishes to continue offering National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) during such building closures, the SFA may request an NSLP and SBP waiver of section 4(b) of the NSLA, which would allow schools to offer non-congregate meals when school buildings are closed, but children continue to attend classes online. In this situation, schools would continue to claim and be reimbursed for meals based on the eligibility status of the individual student. All other NSLP and SBP requirements would apply; waiver and exception requests would be considered.
For example, depending on the distribution approach, the state agency may need to request and be approved for a waiver from USDA for time restrictions for meal service under regulations at 7 CFR 225.16(c)(1) and (2), as discussed in question 5. In addition, requirements to establish meal service times at 7 CFR 225.6(c)(2)(i)(B) and (c)(3)(i)(A), must be met. An SFA’s delivery plan with designated times for distribution, when approved by the state agency, would fulfill the requirements to establish meal service times.
If a scheduled spring break was postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, may meals served while schools were closed be claimed under SFSP/SSO, provided the school had an approved unanticipated school closure waiver?
Yes, in the case of school closures due to COVID-19, FNS can allow SFSP/SSO sponsors to claim Federal reimbursement for meals served during scheduled spring breaks that were cancelled or postponed due to the unforeseen public health emergency.
Rules, Laws, and Compliance
What are the minimum required hours that a school must be in session and what happens if our school does not meet those hours due to a pandemic?
State law requires that schools be in session for a minimum of 450 hours (pre-kindergarten programs receiving state funds), 400 hours (kindergarten), 1032 hours (elementary/middle: K-8) and 1080 hours (secondary: 9- 12). If any school does not meet for the minimum required hours, then the district must submit:
- Sworn Statement – 79-213 (R.R.S.) – If a school(s) closes for reasons specified in this statute (epidemic sickness, severe storm conditions, destruction of the school) and as a result does not meet the minimum number of hours, then a sworn statement by the secretary of the school board (under oath) must be submitted outlining the reasons why the minimum hours requirement was not met. The statement must be signed and notarized. A copy of the required statement (in affidavit form) can be found here.
For questions regarding accreditation, contact Brad Dirksen at 402-471-2405.
Our school is working on an e-learning plan. What should we consider?
It may be possible for some schools to maintain educational continuity by using e-learning (or virtual) methods. While these days cannot replace face-to-face instruction, it can provide continuous learning when school is cancelled. When making the decision to utilize e-learning in place of face-to-face school days, it is important to use an equity lens. School districts must ensure and document the accessibility of e-learning methods for all students. It may make more sense to cancel school and/or district services and make up missed instructional time if some, but not all students, can access the e-learning model. Information on planning for e-learning days is located at: https://www.education.ne.gov/educational-technology/e-learning-days/. Please check this page often as new resources are being shared as they become available.
What should special education services (e.g., specially designed instruction (SDI)) and related services look like during the Covid-19 epidemic and school attendance center closure.
If the district continues providing education opportunities to students during the closure, this includes provision of special education and related services, too, as part of a continuity in learning plan. This requirement ensures students with and without disabilities are treated equitably and is required by federal and state anti-discrimination laws, including Title II of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the IDEA.
District leaders should consider the use of accessible distance technology, the use of small groups of students with disabilities and access to nondisabled peers, instructional phone calls, and other curriculum-based activities. District staff and staff from other impacted agencies and facilities should be included in planning efforts, as they bring expertise regarding services to students with disabilities, which can be embedded through the district plan. There may be “exceptional circumstances” that could affect how a particular service is provided, which may result in a later need to provide compensatory education.
If the district is not providing educational services to students during the closure, then there is not a requirement to provide special education services during the same time period. Districts will want to consider special education needs on a case-by-case basis during the closure to address health and safety needs of students with disabilities.
Districts should communicate the expectation and plan to meet with Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams, including parents, when school resumes, to address student-specific needs resulting from the closure. This might include discussions of compensatory education and extended school year (ESY) services, made on a case-by-case basis. Any need for compensatory services related to school closure or inability to fully implement a student’s IEP will be addressed after school resumes. When educational services are provided, districts will want to collect progress data for IEP goals in order to inform parents and IEP teams and assist in compensatory service decisions later.
For students with special health care needs as identified by IEPs, 504 plans, health care plans, and the student’s parents, districts should address those needs on a case-by-case basis.
- There is no defined or correct delivery method that will equitably meet the needs of all students. Districts need to be flexible and consider employing a variety of delivery options.
- Districts should prioritize health and safety of students, staff, and communities. Districts should identify and acknowledge service delivery limitations, as well as the need for districts to “make every effort to fully implement a student’s IEP or 504 plan” once school resumes. This requirement to “make every effort…” does not allow a district to decline all services to students with an IEP and only offer compensatory services at a later date.
- As district leadership plans for rollout of educational services during school closures, they should consider, address, and communicate equity needs for students with disabilities (with IEPs and 504 plans), English learners, students from low-income families, those placed in-private facilities inside the state and in other states, those receiving preschool services, and those served in community school-to-post school transition programs, home/hospital placements, and state and county facilities.
- Districts should understand that parents of students with IEPs are concerned about district plans and whether those plans consider or appropriately address the needs of their child.
- Districts should consider the need and methods to provide proactive and ongoing communication with parents of students with disabilities. Districts should identify communication channels to and from parents and ensure there are real-time opportunities for questions and concerns to be responded to and needs addressed.
- Districts should clarify their expectation and plan to meet with IEP teams, including parents, when school resumes to address student-specific needs resulting from the closure. This might include discussions of compensatory education and extended school year (ESY) services made on a case-by-case basis. Any need for compensatory services related to school closure or inability to fully implement a student’s IEP will be addressed after school closures end.
What does direct instruction mean in the use of a distance learning model during the COVID-19 emergency?
Instruction may be provided by special education staff, including related service providers. Districts will need to address translation and interpreting needs for students and families when developing and providing instructional materials.
This can occur through a variety of means consistent with the distance learning section of this document. This includes:
- Paper packets or worksheets, which could be distributed daily by bus route or collected several times a week at a central location
- Telephone instruction
- Online resources (take into account availability of broadband)
- instruction via the school’s e-learning platform
This can also include platforms such as Skype, face time, and Zoom.
Districts will need to address translation needs for students and families when developing and providing instructional materials.
If a district is going to provide distance learning only to certain grade levels—for example, only to seniors so they can accrue credits towards their graduation—is the responsibility of Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) only applicable for that grade level, or is it for all students?
- If services are being provided by the district to select grade levels, then IEP services should also be provided to students in those grades to avoid discrimination under Section 504 and Title II.
What should a school do if it cannot meet the requirement to review and revise each IEP at least annually due to school closure or student illness/absence because of COVID19?
34 C.F.R. 300.324(b)(1)(i) requires each school district to ensure that the IEP team reviews the child’s IEP not less than annually to determine whether the annual goals for the child are being achieved and to revise the IEP as appropriate to address any lack of expected progress toward the IEP goals and in the general education curriculum. There is no exception to this annual requirement. To accomplish this, teams may conduct meetings virtually via telephone or videoconference. Any required IEP team members that are unable to attend may be excused by written consent of the parent or written agreement between the parent and the school pursuant to the procedures outlined in 34 C.F.R. 300.321(e).
What will happen to students with IEPs and especially kids in level 3 programs? Parents feel they don’t have the supports to keep kids at home safely.
Once distance learning instruction begins for all students in districts, this also includes students on IEPs in all instructional settings, including those students in Level 3 programs.
For related special education providers (speech, occupational therapy (OT)), does the platform for video chat (zoom, Skype, blink, etc.) need to be Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) compliant?
- FERPA requirements and HIPAA privacy rule requirements contain similar provisions governing privacy, access and disclosure. However, in the school setting, FERPA, rather than the HIPAA privacy rule, applies to student information and student privacy. This includes information maintained by health-related service providers such as speech-language pathologists and occupational therapists when they are working for or on behalf of the school to provide services to students. More information about the application of FERPA and HIPAA to student health records is available from the US Department of Education.
- FERPA requires that schools cannot disclose private data or personally identifiable information from a student’s education record without consent or an eligible exception. Education records means all records that are directly related to an individual student and that are maintained by an educational agency (school) or someone acting for the school.
- If the school is providing services to a student in a way that does not disclose private information from the student’s record, then the law does will not apply. However, if the school has concerns that use of a video platform to provide services could contain and thus could reveal personally identifiable information, then the school should use a platform that incorporates security measures to ensure that private data is encrypted and that it cannot be accessed by individuals who do not have authority to access the data. Taking these steps will help the school comply with both FERPA and the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, which requires schools to protect private data with appropriate security safeguards.
- Schools can also address privacy concerns by informing parents about the proposed services and platform for delivery and seeking parent consent.
When and if we are amending services minutes for distance learning, can this be the special education teacher connecting daily over the phone with the parent and/or student on the activities provided for special education services and also a check in on how things are going with the general education instruction/work as well?
Yes, that is correct.
In the event that a school is closed for an extended period of time, would an IEP Team be required to meet? Would an LEA be required to conduct an evaluation of a student with a disability?
IEP Teams are not required to meet in person while schools are closed. IEP Teams may continue to work with parents and students with disabilities during such school closures and offer advice, as needed. If an evaluation of a student with a disability requires a face-to-face meeting or observation, the evaluation would need to be delayed until school reopens. Evaluations and reevaluations that do not require face-to-face assessments or observations may take place while schools are closed, if the parent consents. These same principles apply to similar activities conducted by appropriate personnel for a student with a disability who has a plan developed under Section 504 or who is being evaluated under Section 504.
What should a school do if it is closed due to COVID-19 and cannot meet the obligation to have an IEP or an IFSP in effect for a child transitioning from Part C to Part B no later than the child’s third birthday (Part C to Part B transition)?
34 C.F.R. 300.101(b) and 34 C.F.R. 300.124(b) require that an IEP or IFSP is developed and is being implemented by the third birthday of a child participating in Part C programs and who will participate in Part B preschool programs. There is no exception to this requirement. Either an IEP or IFSP must be developed and implemented by the child’s third birthday. To accomplish this, teams may conduct meetings virtually via telephone or videoconference.
What are the district and Services Coordinator’s responsibilities upon receiving new Part C referrals? Must we conduct Intake, evaluation and assessment procedures using virtual/technology methods?
The Co-Leads recommend that the Services Coordination (SC) office ensures referrals are received and make phone contact with families in a timely fashion. The SC should explain to the family that the district and/or SC offices are closed and are unable to provide home visits at this time due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but will initiate the evaluation and assessment procedures once the restrictions are lifted. The SC should inform families of the anticipated length of time this may take, and the SC should periodically contact the family to update them on the progress of the timeline.
If a referral is made for an infant/toddler with a diagnosed condition, can the team conduct an Interim IFSP via virtual means in order to initiate service provision?
If the district agrees that it is likely that the infant/toddler is eligible per Rule 52, and is willing to participate in an Interim IFSP meeting to initiate services, then the Services Coordinator (SC) may contact the family and offer to conduct the Interim IFSP meeting via technology (Phone or video capabilities). If parent agrees, the SC will document this in the CONNECT narrative. Prior to the meeting, the SC would send a blank copy of the IFSP to the family for their review/preparation. The SC would lead the meeting and draft the contents of the Interim IFSP. After the meeting, the SC will send the finalized version of the IFSP to the family for review and ask the family to respond “yes” or “no” to consenting to the provision of services as written on the Interim IFSP. The SC will need to print off the emails in which the parents indicated a response to the IFSP service provision and place in the child’s SC file for record keeping. Additionally, the Interim IFSP service page will need to reflect that the services will be provided in an “alternate method” as chosen by the parent, aligned to the OSEP memo – and determine an approximate period of time the alternate method(s) will be utilized (i.e. start date of 3/19/20 and end date of 5/19/20). The SC/IFSP team will need to inform the family that once the restrictions are lifted, the team will proceed with the evaluation, assessment procedures and the Initial IFSP.
Districts and SC offices are asking for clarification on conducting Initial MDT and Initial IFSP meetings since the evaluation and child/family assessment process was completed prior to the outbreak and the MDT/IFSP meeting is scheduled to occur during the outbreak period.
The Co-Leads recommend that the Initial MDT and Initial IFSP meeting be conducted via technology (phone or video capabilities) if parent agrees to this alternate method. If parent agrees, the Services Coordinator (SC) will document this in the CONNECT narrative. The district should draft the MDT report and send to the parent prior to the MDT meeting in order for the parent to review, ask questions and provide input during the meeting. The district should ask the parent if they agree to the eligibility decision so they know how to proceed with the meeting. The district will finalize the MDT report after the meeting and send to parent via email, and ask the parent to respond to the email as “yes” or “no” regarding their agreement to the MDT eligibility decision. The team would then conduct the IFSP meeting in a similar manner. Prior to the meeting, the SC would send a blank copy of the IFSP to the family for their review/preparation.
The SC would lead this portion of the meeting and draft the contents of the IFSP. After the meeting, the SC will send the finalized version of the IFSP to the family for review and ask the family to respond “yes” or “no” to consenting to the provision of services as written on the IFSP. The SC will need to print off the emails in which the parents indicated a response to the MDT decision and IFSP service provision and place in the child’s SC file for record keeping. Additionally, the IFSP service page will need to reflect that the services will be provided in an “alternate method” as chosen by the parent, aligned to the OSEP memo – and determine an approximate period of time the alternate method(s) will be utilized (i.e. start date of 3/19/20 and end date of 5/19/20). Then, the services will need to be listed again on the service page with an approximate start and end date for the natural environment setting (i.e. home or child care) (example: start date of 5/20/20 and end date of 9/18/20).
Districts and SC offices are asking for clarification regarding holding periodic, and annual IFSP meetings.
- The Co-Leads recommend that districts and Services Coordinator offices conduct Periodic and Annual IFSP meetings via technology (phone or video capabilities) if parent agrees to this method. The Co-Leads understand that the services on the IFSP are end dated and may require a Periodic or Annual IFSP to be conducted in order to enter a new start date and obtain parental consent for continuity of Part C service provision. Procedurally, the SC would lead the IFSP meeting and draft the contents of the IFSP. After the meeting, the SC will send the finalized version of the IFSP to the family for review and ask the family to respond “yes” or “no” to consenting to the provision of services as written on the IFSP. The SC will need to print off the emails in which the parents indicated a response to the IFSP service provision and place in child’s file for record keeping. Additionally, the IFSP service page will need to reflect that the services will be provided in an “alternate method” as chosen by the parent, aligned to the OSEP memo – and determine an approximate period of time the alternate method(s) will be utilized (i.e. start date of 3/19/20 and end date of 5/19/20). Then, the services will need to be listed again on the service page with an approximate start and end date for the natural environment setting (i.e. home or child care) (example: start date of 5/20/20 and end date of 9/18/20).
- If the parent declines to hold a meeting at this time in light of the COVID-19 situation, then the SC will need to explain to the family that IFSP services will not be able to continue. If the parent still does not want to conduct a meeting in order to continue with IFSP/Part C services, then the SC should document this in the CONNECT narrative and send the HHS-6 Notice of Action closing the case. The SC will need to inform the district who will provide a written notice informing the family that the IFSP services will end per their request. The family should be informed about how to re-contact the EDN program if and when they’d like to resume services.
Is it ok for the Services Coordination agency to remain open and continue to provide SC services (either in person or via alternate methods) during the COVID-19 outbreak, even if the district is closed and is not providing IFSP services?
Yes, it is acceptable for the Services Coordination (SC) agency to continue to provide SC services even if the district is closed, as long as the family continues to engage with the SC via phone, text, email, etc. This allows the family to receive SC services and routine updates on timelines related to district service provision, etc.
What are the requirements for pupil transportation drivers remaining qualified during COVID -19?
The crisis created by COVID-19 has impacted many facets of society including pupil transportation and the ability of qualified pupil transportation drivers remaining qualified when actual classroom Level II training has ceased in order to protect humans during COVID -19. Fortunately, on-line training for Level II is still available through the Safety Center for all pupil transportation drivers to meet training requirements of Rule 91. All pupil transportation drivers are expected to use this on-line training going forward and employers are urged to make technology available to these drivers during this time. Please note that all Level I training is suspended for the time being in response to the Covid-19 safety measures.
With health issues being a priority, the Nebraska Department of Education will freeze the 60-day window for Level II training going forward. The 60-day freeze window will end when actual classroom Level II trainings begin again and only allows a driver to take the Level II course instead of the Level I course. To qualify for the additional 60-day window, a waiver will need to be obtained from the Nebraska Safety Center and signed by both the driver and the driver’s employer.
The freeze is in place for those unable to take the online Level II training and who cannot take the classroom training due to COVID-19-related circumstances only. Please note that the additional 60-day window does NOT allow drivers to transport students until their Level II training is up to date.
As you know, these are unprecedented times. The Nebraska Safety Center together with the Nebraska Department of Education want all drivers to be cautious of their health concerns during this time.