Special Education Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Special Education Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Last updated August 12, 2020; September 24, 2020

We are working to proactively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and what it means to provide continuity of learning during this time of school closures. We are guided by the latest information available from health officials in addition to guidance from the State and Federal government regarding students with disabilities. In turn we continue to clarify what new developments mean for serving our students. In this document you will find answers to some Special Education related FAQs. You can also visit the Special Education page of our website for more information.

For answers to other questions you may have, go to the Frequently Asked Questions page on our website and click on the FAQs page related to your question. If you don't see your question, you can also submit questions to Special Education on this google form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.


How will SFUSD support Special Education students during Fall 2020?

During distance learning special education teachers will continue to support students with IEPs by working with small groups of students, co-teaching lessons, collaborating with general education teachers and scheduling and holding virtual IEP meetings.  Related service providers (speech therapists, occupational therapists, etc.) will also continue to support students virtually.

What is Senate Bill 98?

Senate Bill 98 is a new California law that was approved in July 2020 along with the state budget. The new law addresses required standards for public schools and provides guidance and recommendations for education during times of emergencies.

What does Senate Bill 98 (SB-98) require for all students?

The school day has new required instructional minutes as follows: 

  • The school day has new required instructional minutes as follows: 
    • Kindergarten - 3 Hours (180 minutes) 
    • 1st - 3rd grade - 3 hours 50 min (230 minutes) 
    • 4th - 12th grade - 4 hours (240 minutes) 
  • Each student must have a daily live interaction with a teacher (via Zoom, Google Meets, or telephone).
  • School staff must take attendance and document daily student participation.

Does SB-98 have requirements for Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)?

  • Yes. SB-98 requires that each Individualized Education Program (IEP) include a description of the services to be provided under “emergency conditions” in which instruction cannot be delivered in-person for more than 10 school days.  
  • The following is the California Department of Education’s Guidance on how this new law affects special education: 2020 Budget Act and Special Education - Laws, Regulations

What is an Emergency Learning Plan?

SB-98 defines an Emergency Learning Plan as a description of the services in an IEP to be provided under “emergency conditions” in which instruction cannot be delivered in-person for more than 10 school days.  

As of June 29, 2020, Emergency Learning Plans must be developed at initial IEPs, or at the next regularly scheduled revision of the IEP.

What has to be included in the Emergency Learning Plan (ELP)?

  • Emergency Learning Plans must include a description of how: Special education and related services; Supplementary aids and services; Transition services; and Extended school year services will be provided under “emergency conditions.”
  • The Emergency Learning Plan should include synchronous (live via Zoom, Google Meets, or telephone ) and asynchronous (video models, packets, google classroom) instruction and related services. 
  • Because SFUSD is starting the 2020-21 school year with Distance Learning under emergency conditions, Case Managers in collaboration with families will develop Emergency Learning Plans immediately.

Is my Distance Learning Plan from Spring 2020 the same as the new Emergency Learning Plan?

Probably not‒the Emergency Learning Plans have new legal requirements (outlined above). The Emergency Learning Plans should be more robust, as they require daily live instruction and improve upon our learnings from the Spring of 2020. The Emergency Learning Plans will replace the Distance Learning Plans created in Spring 2020. For students in Special Day Classes, case managers will ensure that each student receives the minimum number of instructional minutes required by SB-98. 

During distance learning, will students still be mainstreamed into general education classes?

  • Yes, Emergency Learning Plans should be designed to provide students with disabilities comparable opportunities for mainstreaming as when instruction is in-person‒most importantly, for live synchronous instruction. 
  • In order to ensure mainstreaming occurs, case managers and general education teachers will coordinate schedules in order to provide students with disabilities the opportunity to interact with typically developing peers.

What is a Prior Written Notice (PWN)?

A Prior Written Notice is a document that provides notice to parents in their native language when a district: 

  • 1) is proposing or refusing; 
  • 2) to initiate or change; and
  • 3) the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child.

See Notice of Procedural Safeguards - Quality Assurance Process (CA Dept of Education).

Why is a Prior Written Notice necessary for the Emergency Learning Plan?

A Prior Written Notice is necessary when an Emergency Learning Plan is proposing a change to a student’s IEP for distance learning. SFUSD must provide parents with a Prior Written Notice to explain any proposed changes.

Will my child’s service minutes be reduced in the Emergency Learning Plan?

  • Your childs’ service minutes (SAI) may be adjusted based on your childs’ individual needs. Case managers will collaborate with families/guardians to determine what each child needs to make progress on IEP goals via distance learning.

  • Each childs’ schedule will be reviewed to ensure that the total number of minutes meets the requirements of SB-98.

  • Intensive Individual Services (IIS and/or 1:1) services should align with the area of need identified in the IEP and/or the required instructional minutes for a specific content area.

What if my child cannot participate in distance learning without adult support and really needs in-person services during emergency conditions?

Contact your case manager to request a virtual IEP meeting to discuss your concerns and collaborate with your team on the best way to provide support to your child given emergency conditions and applicable Health Orders.

What if my child requires additional services as a result of distance learning but those services are not in their current IEP?

Request a virtual IEP to review and revise the offer of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that will best meet your childs’ needs during distance learning.

Are parents able to provide input into the Emergency Learning Plan?

  • Yes, meaningful parent participation in the creation of an Emergency Learning Plan is not only welcome, it is necessary.
  • Case Managers will schedule a discussion (via telephone, google hangout or zoom) with you to discuss your child’s IEP needs. 
  • During these discussions parents and guardians can provide input on what did and did not work for their child in Spring 2020 Distance Learning and work with the IEP team to incorporate aspects to improve for Fall 2020.
  • If necessary, ask for an interpreter to help you communicate with your case manager.

Do parents/guardians need to consent to the Emergency Learning Plan?

  • Yes, as the Emergency Learning Plan is part of the IEP, parents need to provide consent.

What type of consent is acceptable for the ELP?

  • Parents/guardians can provide consent to the Emergency Learning Plan by:
    • signing the Emergency Learning Plan electronically 
    • sending an email to their case manager
    • sending a text message to their case manager

What if I don’t agree with the changes in the Emergency Learning Plan?

  • If you do not agree or consent to the changes in the plan, discuss your concerns with your case manager. 

  • Request a virtual IEP meeting to discuss the Emergency Learning Plan with your IEP team.  

  • In order to ensure that students continue to receive SAI and related services, staff will implement the last-consented to Distance Learning Plan from Spring 2020 pending parent/guardian agreement to the Emergency Learning Plan.

Are paraprofessionals and consultants (e.g., art teachers) allowed to facilitate separate small group Zoom sessions?

Yes, as long as -

1) special education teacher is supervising for SAI (or the general education if inclusion)


2) SFUSD’s Protocol for Distance Learning (Distance Learning: Privacy & Boundaries Guidance) are followed including: advanced permission from principal, logging the contact, and principal invitation to Zoom sessions.

Will case managers send out Progress Reports?

  • Yes, during distance learning case managers will continue to monitor your childs’ progress toward annual goals. Progress reports will be issued to parents or guardians at the same time as report cards for general education students.
  • The progress report will document the growth your child is making on their IEP goals during distance learning. If your child is not making progress on a goal, then an IEP team meeting may be convened to discuss necessary adjustments in services.

During distance learning, will the IEP team convene for my childs’ annual IEP?

Yes. Case managers will offer to hold the meeting virtually either by telephone or Zoom/Google Meets, or combination. 

What if my annual isn’t until the spring but I have concerns now? Can I ask for an additional IEP meeting?

Yes, contact your case manager about your concerns and request an IEP meeting. Your case manager will respond to the request and schedule a virtual IEP meeting to address your concerns within 30 days of the request. 

My child with a disability is transferring into SFUSD from another school district/private school. How can I be sure my child will get the right services at his new school?

  • SFUSD will develop and implement Interim placement IEPs for students who transfer into the district with an active IEP from another district. 
  • To create the interim IEP, the district will review the last signed IEP and will provide services comparable to those described in the previously approved IEP. 
  • Within 30 days, the district will convene a virtual IEP meeting to adopt the current IEP or develop a new IEP to provide services within SFUSD. All subsequent IEPs will follow the same timelines as students already enrolled in SFUSD.

Will SFUSD still be holding ADR sessions during the Fall 2020?

Yes, virtual ADR sessions will resume in October 2020. If you are interested in this option, contact adr@sfusd.edu for more information.

For the 2020-21 SY, while schools are closed to in-person instruction, is the District obligated to adhere to the 60-day timeline for conducting evaluations? 

Yes. The requirement under state and federal law to complete an assessment within 60 days has not been waived. The District is still obligated to complete an assessment and convene an IEP meeting to determine eligibility and develop an IEP within the 60-day timeline.  See, 34 C.F.R. § 300.301; Cal. Ed. Code § 56043 (c).  On April 27, 2020, Secretary DeVos submitted the Education Department’s recommendations regarding COVID-19 closures to Congress, and declined to request waiver authority for any of the core tenets of the IDEA, including assessment timelines. 

For the 2020-21 SY, while schools are closed to in-person instruction, is the District obligated to adhere to the 15-day timeline for providing an assessment plan? 

Yes. Under SB-820 (signed by the Governor on Sept. 18, 2020), this timeline is no longer held in abeyance during the period of school closure for in-person instruction.

Can I request my students records during distance learning?

Yes. As SFUSD is entering the 2020-21 school year with distance learning, school sites will provide parents with an electronic copy of all paper and digital records available within five business days of the receipt of the request.

Don't see an answer to your question or have questions about this FAQ or the Emergency Learning Plan?

Contact your students case manager or Special Education Services by filling out this form