SPrEaD the word

Volume 1 Issue 9 (03.26.2020) COVID-19 Week 2

Please note the information in this newsletter is taken from Zoom meetings and presentations offered by Russell Johnston and his team within the DESE.

Supplemental Fact Sheet Key Takeaways

  • All students must be receiving an education
  • Ensuring compliance with IDEA should not prevent us from offering educational programs through distance learning
  • Must provide FAPE while protecting the health and safety of students, educators, and service providers
  • Services will look different from when they are provided when school is fully operational
  • Many modifications and services can be effectively provided remotely
  • Communication is key to making this happen

For the full document, please follow this link: Supplemental Fact Sheet — Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities, March 21, 2020

"Providing services now is the most effective way to mitigate the need for compensatory services in the future."

Two Models of Remote Service Delivery

1. Supports and Resources

Goal: establish systemic special education resources, supports, and services to promote continuity learning.

Expectation: all schools and districts can implement this model

What does it look like:

Providing strategies, assignments, projects, and packets to students

  • general education materials with accommodations (collaborating with general education teachers)
  • materials come directly from special educators and related service providers
  • Providing choices to students (sharing a variety of online and offline tasks to students that support and promote skills learned)

Providing resources to families to keep students engaged in learning and movement

  • YouTube channels
  • WGBH
  • Apps to meet individual needs
  • Video modeling

Regular, ongoing communication with families (phone, email, social media, Zoom, Google Meet)

  • Discuss supports and services
  • Assist in prioritizing learning needs
  • Problem solve learning and behavioral issues
  • Assist in customizing daily schedules for students
  • Help overcome individual obstacles, such as accessing resources
  • Standing scheduled times with family
  • Provide Office Hours (these can be by appointment or drop-in)

2. Instruction & Services (whole class, small group, individualized)

Goal: Provide more direct services to students in whole class, small group, or individualized formats

Expectations: all schools and district can now implement aspects of this model by providing as many of these services as possible given the current circumstances; schools and district will make continual systemic improvements to increase this provision of services over time

What does this look like:

Telephonic instruction and therapies

  • phone calls for related services
  • lessons with small groups or individuals
  • morning meeting with the class via conference call

Telephonic or Internet-based parent consultation

  • A grid consultation service
  • ongoing support during closure

Interactive Internet-based lessons

  • prescheduled and announced to families
  • online virtual instruction with teacher and class

Recorded lessons

  • record yourself teaching and then post the lesson for students
  • step-by-step related services videos to assist caregivers in replicating at home


Please document all your efforts! There will be a log coming out to assist you in documenting.

What am I documenting?

  • Communication logs
  • Email records
  • Social media records
  • Clinical notes
  • Service Logs
  • Email and social media archives

Please take a look at this sample log. Then complete this brief survey.

IEP Meetings

While DESE has not released any guidance specific to IEP meetings, Russell Johnston encourages districts to offer to hold meetings virtually.

As shared during the Virtual Special Education Department Meeting, there were to be 43 meetings between March 16 - April 7th. Families were surveyed to determine if there was interest in holding these meetings virtually. Given the positive response, we will begin to hold virtual Annual IEP meetings. The Team Chairs and Special Education Clerks are working to schedule these. Please watch your email for calendar invites and more information.

At this time, we will not be holding initial or 3-year reevaluation meetings.

Tips for Virtual IEP Meetings

The best over-arching tip I have is this: Keep in mind that the only thing that has changed about this IEP meeting is the location. That’s it. Location. It is now being held online instead of in-person. Everything else should remain the same.

  • All standard rules still apply. Just because it’s not in person doesn’t mean that other wonky rules get to come into play. All mandated IEP team members must be there unless the parent/guardian excuses them.

  • Other rules that seem to “change” when it’s an online meeting: Having a copy of the IEP or evals there for the parent, signing documents and parental input. None of these changes just because the location of the meeting has changed.

  • We are using Zoom. Download it and try it in advance.

  • Treat it just as you would any other IEP meeting. Draft IEP to be prepared and available at least 2 days in advance. Draft IEP will be emailed to the family.

  • The only thing that has changed about this IEP meeting is the location.

  • Be professional. Dress appropriately and sit in a quiet room with no distractions. You will need headphones if you are unable to be in a room alone. You wouldn’t show up to a regular IEP meeting in pajamas, you shouldn’t for this one either. Be on time.

  • Many online meeting software programs allow for easy recording of meetings. You may want to research this option ahead of time and let your team know. Again, all rules and laws will apply–including that you SHOULD NOT record unless all parties are in agreement.

  • Charge the phone or device that you’re going to use to 100%. Using these programs can be an extra heavy drain on batteries.

  • Make sure that you are in a location with solid WiFi or internet access. It’s really annoying on all ends when it’s spotty and people freeze up mid-sentence. We also understand that WiFi and these programs are being used by everyone, everywhere.

  • If you’re nervous about how you look or sound on video (I hate how I sound on recordings and videos!) that’s just a personal comfort issue that you have to get over. Know that I’ve now done a zillion conference calls and online meetings, and never once am I focused on “eeww, that person’s voice is weird!” Once you start chatting about the task at hand, you kinda forget you’re online.

Online meetings may be a real positive thing for many families. Once we get over this hump of insecurity and newness, they can be a huge lifesaver in so many other situations.


  • No new guidance has been shared regarding timelines.
  • Given these are not school days, evaluation timelines are on hold.
  • If any additional information is shared, it will be passed along.
  • We will continue to operate under our normal timelines as they pertain to finalizing the proposed IEP.