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Newark parents can request services for students with disabilities missed during the pandemic

The deadline is approaching for parents of children with disabilities to take advantage of a New Jersey law that gives them the right to seek ‘compensatory education’ services to deal with two and a half years of learning disruptions caused by the pandemic.

By a state law passed in March, parents have until the end of the year to ask their school district in writing to schedule Individualized Education Program, or IEP, meetings to discuss how a student can catch up on services they missed due to remote learning during the pandemic. If a school district doesn’t meet with a parent or schedule a reunion by the Dec. 31 deadline, families can still find help from the state by requesting a due process hearing by Sept. 1. 2023.

“The idea is to see what the child needs and try to figure out how you would get the child to where they should be or where they would have been had they got the services they needed,” said said Elizabeth Athos, senior education equity attorney at the Education Law Center.

In 2020, Newark students switch to remote learning rather than in person due to school closures caused by the pandemic. Special education services have been allowed to go virtual under a new state rule that year prompting revised courses for students with disabilities and virtual IEP meetings with parents as needed. Despite school districts’ obligations to students with disabilities during the pandemic, Chalkbeat Newark discovered that in 2020, some Newark students had not received services for more than 10 days, a situation that constitutes a change in placement requiring an IEP meeting.

Compensatory education may include additional sessions per week or services provided beyond the regular school day. In 2020, the state department of education also told school districts that even if they comply with virtual services during the pandemic, remedial services may still be needed when students resume in-person learning.

Similarly, if families did not have internet access during the pandemic and could not participate in online learning, a student’s IEP team, or Newark Children’s Study Team, should determine what compensatory instruction may be required when schools reopen.

“We know there have been disruptions and gaps in educational services, so school districts should hold these meetings,” Athos said, adding that teams are working with parents to decide “what services can they provide. significantly that will offset this.”

While school districts should provide information about services a student has missed during the pandemic, parents can also supplement these results by providing more information about how a student has responded to virtual services during their sessions or a list of services or days a child missed during that time. .

“In any case, it’s good that the parents thought about what the IEP required their child to receive and what the child actually received,” Athos added.

Students who have reached the age of 21 during distance learning are also entitled to receive compensatory training, according to to the federal government. In 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation providing for a one-year temporary extension of special education and related services for students with disabilities aged 21 or older during the 2020-21, 2021-22, or 2022-23 school years. The law applies to students who have met with IEP team members and parents to determine a student’s eligibility.

In April, Murphy has allocated nearly $18 million in federal U.S. bailout funds to reimburse school districts for additional special education services for students affected by learning disruptions. As of April, the state Department of Education had approved reimbursement requests for 221 students in 78 school districts, according to the state.

“The school district has a positive obligation to schedule these meetings,” Athos said. “The law says it can be earlier at the request of the parents.”

Compensatory education has always been available under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, for students who may not have received IEP-mandated services. The federal Section 504 regulation requires a school district to provide a “Free Appropriate Public Education” or FAPE, to students with disabilities, regardless of the student’s disability. Under IDEA, the state Department of Education is required to oversee school district special education programs to ensure compliance with federal and state laws.

For more information on compensatory training, the Education Law Center provides FAQs for parents about missed services during the pandemic. Families can also email Newark Office of Special Education or the state Office of Special Education at [email protected] for more information.

Jessie Gomez is a reporter for Chalkbeat Newark, covering public education in the city. Contact Jessie at [email protected].

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