Coronavirus and Schools: BSE Guidance to LEAs
How does today’s guidance change any advice on the use of letters versus NOREPs? In particular, does this recent notice change any of the guidance we have received regarding the choice of issuing letters as opposed to NOREPS if the district is only providing review and enrichment?
The attached guidance document and email message from BSE Director Carole Clancy has gone…should we say it?… viral in the special education community since its release late this morning. For those LEAs that are offering new instruction as part of their “continuity of education” plans, and that therefore must make “good faith” offers of special education to students with disabilities, the bureau is clearly favoring the use of the NOREP as the means by which the LEA provides “notice” of those offers. The bureau is also recommending that LEAs connect with parents by phone to discuss virtual services prior to issuing NOREPs.
Many of you, of course, chose to use letters rather than NOREPs to notify parents of your intentions, and some of you have actually issued either letters or NOREPs without attempting phone contact first. Don’t worry! As time permits in the next couple of weeks, make efforts to call parents and seek their input concerning virtual programming, even if that programming has already begun. If you do not connect with parents, document your attempted calls and let the matter go. If you already issued—or are about to issue—letters rather than NOREPs, again—don’t worry. Follow up with NOREPs when you can or, if your letters were sufficiently specific in explaining the services you are offering, and you cannot feasibly issue NOREPs, stick with the letters. Remember, the function of either the NOREP or the letter is to provide “notice”—not to seek or obtain consent.
Act 13 (SB 751) requires notice to all parents of students with disabilities, and we interpret this requirement as applicable even to those LEAs that are not offering new instruction as part of their “continuity of education” plans. As we have advised previously, even if an LEA is providing only optional “enrichment” activities as its “continuity of education,” those activities must nonetheless be accessible to students with disabilities. They must be sufficiently universal in their design or must be offered to address a sufficient range of developmental levels that most, if not all, students can participate in them should they opt to do so. The notice that LEAs should issue to parents should explain the options, adaptations, and modifications available to enable students with disabilities to access optional enrichment during the closure. That notice need not come in the form of a NOREP. A letter will suffice. Note that the guidance recommends the use of a NOREP when “an LEA’s continuity of education plan includes special education services.” (emphasis added). Act 13, moreover, uses the term “written notice,” and that language is broad enough to encompass either a NOREP or a letter.