Special Education Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Special Education Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Last updated April 16, 2020

How will SFUSD support Special Education students during shelter in place?

SFUSD is working hard to serve students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) even with the difficult conditions presented by school closure. The SFUSD Special Education Department has been developing resources for the continued delivery of Special Education and related services as SFUSD transitions to remote learning during this crisis. 

What about PreK and TK students?

For Integrated/Inclusive Early Education sites, SpED teachers have been encouraged to collaborate with their early education team. Teachers are connecting with SpED teachers to discuss what they are working on. For integrated sites, SpED teachers are in communication with General Education teachers so that they can plan together. Meetings with a child's teachers include the SpED teacher so that everyone is on the same page.

What are distance learning plans for Special Education students? 

Distance learning involves how students learn and make academic progress when they are not physically present in schools. This is accomplished using a variety of digital and print resources, and various ways of connecting with teachers and other students. How each teacher uses distance learning will be  adjusted based on individual student needs and ability to access technology and the internet.

SFUSD staff are developing plans for providing students with disabilities with equal access to educational opportunities and the provision of a free appropriate public education considering the “shelter-in-place” orders.  Beginning the week of April 6th, Special Education teachers began reaching out to parents to discuss the distance learning needs of individual students. All teachers are working with their teams (General Education, Speech, Occupational Therapist, Behavior Therapist, etc) to articulate a Distance Learning Plan for each student. The Special Education teachers will integrate their support and expertise into the interim Distance Learning Plan. 

Parents and guardians will receive a Prior Written Notice containing the District’s proposal for their child’s interim individualized Distance Learning Plan, which is grounded in each student’s IEP and amended for remote learning.

What is the purpose of a Prior Written Notice (PWN)?

The Prior Written Notice (PWN) is a notice that informs parents/guardians/ed rights holders in their native language whenever the school proposes to initiate or change identification, evaluation, placement or provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

 Are the proposed special education service changes in the PWN—Distance Learning Plan temporary or will they be permanent? 

The PWN—Distance Learning Plan outlines the interim (temporary) specialized academic instruction and related services that will be provided during the school closure due to the global pandemic. When physical schools reopen the Individualized Education Program (IEP) will immediately be reimplemented. Distance Learning Plan is an interim plan designed for virtual learning.

The PWN—Distance Learning Plan  I received says my student’s IEP is amended. Does this mean the PWN changes the existing IEP? 

The PWN—Distance Learning Plan amended the IEP by adding a plan specifically for remote learning. SFUSD utilized the PWN during the school closure to preserve students' existing IEPs. By using a PWN, staff can quickly provide distance learning to students during the closure and then immediately return to full implementation of the IEP when in-person school resumes.

Will I be able to amend the PWN—Distance Learning Plan at a later date if we need to make changes for my student? 

Yes. If the Distance Learning Plan needs an adjustment, please contact your case manager and/or request an IEP meeting.

What if I had an IEP meeting scheduled during the school closure? Will it be rescheduled?

Yes. If an IEP meeting was canceled due to the school closure, your case manager will work with you to reschedule it virtually or when school resumes, depending on your preference and availability.

Will annual IEPs be held during this period of distance learning?

Yes. The goal is to hold annual IEP meetings virtually, when possible. Case managers are currently working to schedule the IEP meetings. Parents will be provided with the option of holding the meeting virtually or scheduling the meeting in-person when school resumes.

Will transition IEP Meetings be held for students with IEPs who will be transitioning to a new school? For example, students transitioning from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school?

Yes, the goal is to hold virtual transition meetings in May to the extent possible.

Will SFUSD move forward with Special Education Assessments during this period of school closure?

SFUSD assessors will discuss options with parents for completing Special Education Assessments and evaluations such as records reviews and interviews, or whether holding the assessment in abeyance (temporary suspension) during this period is the most appropriate option for the student. To the extent possible, staff hopes to move forward with evaluations in order to ensure that when students return to “regular” school sessions, a plan is in place to support your child.

What if I had an Alternative Dispute Resolution session, mediation or facilitated IEP scheduled? Will these meetings be held during the school shut down?

Yes. All previously scheduled Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) sessions, mediations and facilitated IEPs are currently being rescheduled as virtual sessions.

How does SB 117 affect Special Education? 

School districts are still encouraged to respond to parent requests as expeditiously as possible. SB 117 does not affect federal timelines under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which remain in effect.

What if I need to make a special education records request during the school closure?

Change to Records Request Procedure due to Covid-19:

To minimize the spread of COVID-19, San Francisco Unified School District schools and facilities are closed beginning March 16, 2020 through June 2, 2020. By direction of the State EXECUTIVE ORDER N-33-20 and City ORDER OF THE HEALTH OFFICER No. C19-07b, all non-essential staff are ordered to shelter-in-place. 

Student records, if existing and retained by the District, are located in a District facility that is currently closed and inaccessible to staff. When the District resumes normal business operations, we will complete the search process for the records requested and make those records available as soon as practicable. In the meantime, SFUSD staff will provide families and caregivers with any existing digital student records to the extent possible.

Families and caregivers can request copies of a student's special education file directly from the school the student is attending during the academic year.  Records requested by outside agencies, other school districts and during summer break and holidays shall contact Special Education Records at:  



Special Education | Records
San Francisco Unified School District
3045 Santiago St.
San Francisco, CA 94116