School Closures and Special Education

Protecting our clients has always been our highest priority. While our families are now dealing with the impact and school cancellations surrounding COVID-19 (Coronavirus), we wanted to provide a resource for school-related information.

Free Parent Webinar

Join us for our free parent webinar on COVID-19, special education and school closings:

Join Us: 🖥️Parent Webinar on covid-19 and special education services ➡️

Texas School Meal Finder

Find Texas school sites providing free meals during school closures. 


Latest Texas Education Agency Guidance

Special Education Guidance -Updated March 26

Instructional Continuity Framework Resources from TEA

Residential School Guidance

TEA Initial Guidance on Special Education Services

Schools are required to provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) to all students in the district or school who receive special education and related services.
Schools that close campuses and establish virtual learning environments or other alternative educational delivery methods, must ensure that planning addresses the provision of all
services required in each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), including both instructional and related services. TEA will provide further guidance as it becomes available. TEA Initial Guidance

Planning for Instructional Continuity During High Absenteeism and School Closures

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC has issued guidance on best practices to avoid exposure to COVID-19, including thoroughly washing hands and avoiding close contact. That guidance can be found here on the CDC website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The CDC has issued interim guidance to help administrators of public and private childcare programs and K–12 schools plan for and prevent the spread of COVID-19 among students and staff. See Interim Guidance for Administrators of US Childcare Programs and K–12 Schools to Plan, Prepare, and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019- ncov/specific-groups/guidance-for-schools.html

Department of Education
The US Department of Education has issued supplemental guidance regarding IDEA requirements during current school closures.

IDEA Timelines
As a general principle, during this unprecedented national emergency, public agencies are encouraged to work with parents to reach mutually agreeable extensions of time, as appropriate.
Part B of IDEA
State Complaints
Absent agreement by the parties, a state may be able to extend the 60-day timeline for complaint resolution if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to a particular complaint. 34 C.F.R. § 300.152(b)(1). Although the Department has previously advised that unavailability of staff is not an exceptional circumstance that would warrant an extension of the 60-day complaint resolution timeline, the COVID-19 pandemic could be deemed an exceptional circumstance if a large number of SEA staff are unavailable or absent for an extended period of time.
Due Process Hearings
When a parent files a due process complaint, the LEA must convene a resolution meeting within 15 days of receiving notice of the parent’s complaint, unless the parties agree in writing to waive the meeting or to use mediation. 34 C.F.R. § 300.510(a). While the IDEA specifically mentions circumstances in which the 30-day resolution period can be adjusted in 34 C.F.R. § 300.510(c), it does not prevent the parties from mutually agreeing to extend the timeline because of unavoidable delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, although a hearing decision must be issued and mailed to the parties 45 days after the expiration of the 30-day resolution period or an adjusted resolution period, a hearing officer may grant a specific extension of time at the request of either party to the hearing. 34 C.F.R. § 300.515(a) and (c).
Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)
If a child has been found eligible to receive services under the IDEA, the IEP Team must meet and develop an initial IEP within 30 days of a determination that the child needs special education and related services. 34 C.F.R. § 300.323(c)(1). IEPs also must be reviewed annually. 34 C.F.R. §300.324(b)(1). However, parents and an IEP Team may agree to conduct IEP meetings through alternate means, including videoconferencing or conference telephone calls. 34 C.F.R. §300.328. Again, we encourage school teams and parents to work collaboratively and creatively to meet IEP timeline requirements. Most importantly, in making changes to a child’s IEP after the annual IEP Team meeting, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the parent of a child with a disability and the public agency may agree to not convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making those changes, and instead develop a written document to amend or modify the child’s current IEP. 34 C.F.R. §300.324(a)(4)(i).
Initial Eligibility Determination
An initial evaluation must be conducted within 60 days of receiving parental consent under IDEA, or within the state established timeline within which the evaluation must be conducted. 34 C.F.R. § 300.301(c). Once the evaluation is completed, IDEA does not contain an explicit timeline for making the eligibility determination but does require that the IEP be developed in accordance with 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.320-300.324 (34 C.F.R. § 300.306(c)(2)). Reevaluations A reevaluation of each child with a disability must be conducted at least every three years, unless the parents and the public agency agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary 34 C.F.R. § 300.303(b)(2). However, when appropriate, any reevaluation may be conducted through a review of existing evaluation data, and this review may occur without a meeting and without obtaining parental consent, unless it is determined that additional assessments are needed. 34 C.F.R. §300.305(a).

Part C of IDEA
State Complaints
Under 303.433(b)(1)(i), the lead agency’s state Complaint procedures permit an extension of the 60 day timeline for a written decision if “exceptional circumstances exist with respect to a particular complaint” or the parent or organization and the agency or early intervention services (EIS) provider agree to extend the time for engaging in mediation.

Due Process Hearings
A state may choose to adopt Part B procedures for Due Process resolution under 34 C.F.R. §§303.440 – 303.449 or Part C procedures under 34 C.F.R. §§303.435 – 303.438. Conditions for extending the applicable timelines are similar under both sets of procedures. Under 34 C.F.R. §303.447(c), the hearing or review officer may grant specific extensions of the Due Process timeline at the request of either party. Under 34 C.F.R. §303.447(d), each hearing and each review involving oral argument must be conducted at a time and place that is reasonably convenient to the parents and child involved. Section 303.437 (a) and (c) provides similar language regarding scheduling a hearing at a time and place convenient to the parents and hearing officers granting extensions at the request of either party.

Initial eligibility/Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP)
Under 34 C.F.R. §303.310, the initial evaluation and assessments of child and family, as well as the initial IFSP meeting, must be completed within 45 days of the lead agency receiving the referral. However, under 34 C.F.R. §303.310(a), the 45-day timeline does not apply if the family is unavailable due to “exceptional family circumstances that are documented” in the child’s early intervention (EI) records. The Department has previously provided guidance to states indicating that weather or natural disasters may constitute “exceptional family circumstances.” The COVID-19 pandemic could be considered an “exceptional family circumstance.”“exceptional family circumstances.”

See full Supplemental Guidance from The Department of Education here. 

Initial Questions and Answers Guidance by The Department of Education 

Department of Education Webinar on Online Education and Website Accessibility

COPAA Statement on Student Rights Under IDEA During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Given growing concerns and uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 outbreak,”the coronavirus,” the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc. (COPAA) is extremely concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on students with disabilities and their families. It is essential that families make decisions about the safety and welfare of their children in consultation with local schools and communities and that families know the rights and requirements under Federal law during such emergency situations. COPAA wishes our members and the entire community health and safety in the coming weeks.

Under Federal law, State and local educational agencies are required to provide all children eligible for special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) with a free appropriate public education (FAPE). While the IDEA does grant the Secretary of Education the authority to waive state maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements and requirements to supplement, not supplant, federal funds under certain circumstances, the Secretary does not have the authority to grant waivers to FAPE under IDEA. COPAA has grave concern with the Department of Education’s proposition that students with disabilities are not entitled to services during a school closure. COPAA believes the obligation remains.

If schools close for only a brief time for all students, the school district must maintain continuity of learning by providing educational services to students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). For such temporary emergency closures, the provision of homebound services such as instructional telephone calls, homework packets, Internet-based lessons, and other available distance-based learning approaches is not considered a change in placement

If schools close for an extended period of time (generally more than 10 consecutive school days), then school administration officials and the child’s IEP team must determine whether the child is available for instruction and could benefit from homebound services such as instructional telephone calls, homework packets, Internet-based lessons, and other distance-based learning approaches. Even prior to that point, a child’s parent may request an IEP team meeting to discuss the potential need for special education and related services, if the exclusion is likely to be of extended duration. If neither parent can attend an IEP team meeting, the school must use other methods to ensure parent participation, including individual or conference telephone calls, consistent with 34 CFR §§ 300.322(c) and 300.328.

If schools are developing plans for online learning for students, they also need to plan for students with disabilities. If an eligible student with a disability is required to stay home at the advice of their physician, due to vulnerability concerns or due to testing positive for COVID-19, the IEP team should convene to discuss the need for special education and related services, available distance-based learning approaches, or compensatory education in the case of an extended absence.

Due to an increasing number of troubling news reports, on March 4, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights wrote to all Education Leaders to clarify federal protections that exist for students who become victims of “stereotyping, harassment, and bullying directed at persons perceived to be of Chinese American or, more generally, Asian descent…” and that “[states and school districts] must take special care to ensure that all students are able to study and learn in an environment that is healthy, safe, and free from bias or discrimination.” https://www.copaa.org/news/news.asp?id=493349

Disability Rights Texas 

Coronavirus and Rights of Students with Disabilities

What Shields Law Firm is doing:

• We are currently developing this web page to provide state-wide and school-district specific resources and information. If you have school-district specific links or guidance that you would like us to add, please let us know.
• We are changing our in-person consultation policy to web-based or phone consultations. We are in the process of reaching out to those who have already scheduled with us.
• When possible, we are telecommuting and meeting virtually or telephonically with current clients.
• As our work requires in-person meetings or conferences, we will maintain social distancing to the extent possible.
• If you or someone you have been in contact with is experiencing symptoms of coughing, high fever or shortness of breath, we kindly ask that you meet with us virtually, rather than coming into the office.

School District Specific Information

We are working on developing a centralized list of Texas school-district COVID-19 information, including any temporary closures and impact to special education services.

Austin Area

Austin ISD https://www.austinisd.org/student-health/coronavir…
Round Rock ISD https://roundrockisd.org/coronavirus/
Leander ISD http://support.leanderisd.org/support/covid-19/
Lake Travis ISD https://www.ltisdschools.org/Page/3868
Dripping Springs ISD https://www.dsisdtx.us/site/default.aspx?PageType=…
Eanes ISD https://www.eanesisd.net/coronavirus

Greater DFW

Alba-Golden ISD https://www.agisd.com/o/Alba%20Golden/live_feed/#l…
Alvarado ISD https://www.alvaradoisd.net/news/what_s_new/school…
Dallas ISD https://www.dallasisd.org/covid19
Lewisville ISD https://www.lisd.net/coronavirus
Mansfield ISD https://www.mansfieldisd.org/
McKinney ISD https://www.mckinneyisd.net/health-services-wellness/coronavirus-covid-19/
Plano ISD https://www.pisd.edu/healthupdate

Greater Houston Area 

Houston ISD https://www.houstonisd.org/HealthAlerts
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD https://www.cfisd.net/en/parents-students/health/c…
Katy ISD http://www.katyisd.org/Pages/Katy-ISD-Health-Updat…
Conroe ISD https://www.conroeisd.net/department/health-servic…
Klein ISD https://kleinisd.net/teaching_learning/special_pro…
Channelview ISD https://www.cvisd.org/site/default.aspx?PageType=3…
Clear Creek ISD https://ccisd.net/cms/One.aspx?portalId=645487&pag…
Dickinson ISD http://www.dickinsonisd.org/page/article/488
Fort Bend ISD https://www.fortbendisd.com/site/default.aspx?Page…
Friendswood ISD https://myfisd.com/health-services-department/
Galena Park ISD https://www.galenaparkisd.com/site/default.aspx?Pa…
Hempstead ISD https://www.hempsteadisd.org/190839_2?articleID=50…
Magnolia ISD https://www.magnoliaisd.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?u…
Sante Fe ISD https://tx02215329.schoolwires.net/Page/3867
Sheldon ISD https://www.sheldonisd.com/apps/news/article/11823…
Tomball ISD https://www.tomballisd.net/apps/pages/index.jsp?uR…
Willis ISD https://www.willisisd.org/Page/8416

San Antonio Area 

Alamo Heights ISD http://www.ahisd.net/news/what_s_new/update_on_c_o…
Boerne ISD https://www.boerneisd.net/site/default.aspx?PageTy…
East Central ISD https://www.ecisd.net/Page/12262
Edgewood ISD https://www.eisd.net/cms/one.aspx?portalId=1215207…
Northside ISD https://www.nisd.net/news/important-health-update-…
North East ISD https://www.neisd.net/criticalupdates

Rio Grande Valley Area

Santa Rosa ISD http://www.srtx.org/
La Feria ISD http://www.laferiaisd.org/
Brownsville ISD http://www.bisd.us/PDF/08_PressRoom/2019-2020/08_M…
Harlingen CISD https://www.hcisd.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID…

Texas School Closures

Schools are closed across Texas until April 3 per the Governor’s closure order.

 

We are adding additional school districts, but if you know of a webpage that we are missing, please let us know.

Thank you for your understanding while we navigate this challenge. The situation is evolving, and we will work with clients to provide current information and advice moving forward.​