Coronavirus and Schools:Letters to Parents Concerning Special Education During the COVID-19 Closures
Is the superintendent to send one letter to all families concerning the district’s “continuity of education” plans, then the special education office contacts families individually with this type of letter or a NOREP?
Nothing in the law dictates who or what office notifies the public about district “continuity of education” plans. However, Senate Bill 751, which was signed by Governor Wolf on March 27 and is now Act 13 of 2020, does make clear that each district and IU must publish its “continuity of education” plan on its website and submit that plan to the Department of Education. We assume, of course, that the superintendent or some other official on behalf of the district will also communicate these plans more directly to parents, whether by letter or otherwise.
Act 13 also requires that schools provide “written notice” directed to the parents of students with disabilities of its plans for ensuring a “free and appropriate public education” to each child with a disability. This notice would necessarily be distinct from the notice to all parents concerning the school’s “continuity of education” plans.
Because Act 13 (SB 751) is unclear concerning the form of this “written notice” to parents of students with disabilities, we have suggested that it can take the form of either a NOREP—which is the Pennsylvania form by which IDEA-mandated “prior written notice” is given—or a letter detailing plans for the child’s programing. As we have discussed in prior opinions, the NOREP offers the form of notice that most directly conforms to the law. Many districts and IUs, however, have found that issuing a large number of NOREPs at one time poses too daunting a challenge, particularly as the attention of staff is diverted to the transition to virtual learning. The letter thus provides a viable, if not optimal, alternative.