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COVID-19 – Special Education Updates and Resources

The following information includes guidance and resources related to the provision of special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Wisconsin DPI understands that guidance can change quickly as information evolves, and this page continues to be updated to provide resources on this topic. For additional information from Wisconsin DPI relating to COVID-19, please go to the DPI COVID-19 webpage.

In addition, DPI continues to share updated information with district administrators frequently. There is a listing of these updates and any attachments at the district administrators' email chrono page. To view archived newsletter items, go to the DPI Special Education Weekly News web page.

The Rising Tide that Lifts All Boats: Investing Stimulus Dollars with an Equity Focus

The Center for Learner Equity provides detailed information on how school districts can maximize their investment of stimulus funds to advance equity. The guide includes a section titled “Quickly get current on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs),” providing 19 different strategies to advance equity for students with IEPs.

Questions and Answers on Civil Rights and School Reopening in the COVID-19 Environment

On May 13, 2021, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released an important new resource:

The OCR Q&A is designed to help students, families, schools, and the public understand the civil rights protections that support equal opportunity for students in remote, hybrid, and in-person educational environments, in both K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions. You will find many important topics covered in the Q&A, including:

Information on Additional Services

Information Update Bulletin 20.01: Additional Services due to Extended School Closures (Added 5/29/2020)

WSPEI: Preparing for Discussions on Additional Services: What Families Can Do

Compensatory Services Decisions for Students Exiting in the 2021-2022 School Year

The department has recorded a presentation to help develop a greater understanding, particularly for families, of guidance issued to date in response to challenges facing school communities as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic. In particular, the presentation focuses on the guidance contained in the COVID-19 Special Education Question and Answer Document

Information on Data Reporting and School Finance
Information on Service Delivery Options
Information on Evaluations and IEP Meetings

Documenting Extension of Evaluation Timeline in Connection with Extended School Closure

The department has not produced a sample form for documenting extensions for evaluations that cannot be completed, due to extended school closure, within 60 days of receiving parent consent. The link below is an example of a form, with minor modifications, developed by the Racine Unified School District. The department is not requiring the use of this form and is providing this document solely as an example. The use of this form or any other method of documentation must be consistent with the guidance contained within the COVID-19 Special Education Question and Answer Document, as well as the requirements under 34 CFR § 300.301(d) and Wis. Stat. § 115.78(3)(b). The department gratefully acknowledges the Racine Unified School District for this contribution. 

Conducting Parent Friendly and Productive Virtual IEP Meetings

Information on FERPA and Wisconsin Department of Health
Information from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) has provided a Frequently Asked Questions Document. Additional information was released on March 21, 2020, emphasizing that special education requirements must be provided consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities and those providing education, specialized instruction, and related services to those students.

On September 28, 2020, OSEP released a Question and Answer Document on the implementation of IEP services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The document is meant to assist LEAs and parents in identifying steps they can take to ensure that as the 2020-21 school year continues, students with disabilities are well positioned with an educational program that meets each student’s unique needs. The document includes guidance on IEP team meeting requirements, the IEP amendment process, timelines, ESY, and evaluations. The guidance is consistent with Wisconsin’s COVID-19 Special Education Question and Answer Document.