Return to In-Person Learning Frequently Asked Questions FAQs for Special Education

Special Education Preschool through Access Program (Prek ‒ 13+): Return to In-person Learning- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Families

Last updated: [April 6, 2021]

  • The following serves to address parent questions regarding SFUSD’s return to in-person learning for students who qualify for special education services under the Individual with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA).
  • This FAQ is meant to address general questions which arise frequently for parents. If you have questions regarding your child, please contact your child’s case manager.

Return to School Sites

Does my child need to return to school for in-person learning? If my child does not return, will they lose their school assignment?

  • No, your child may continue in distance learning. As long as your child continues participating in distance learning, they will remain enrolled in their school.

What if my child struggles with in-person learning? Can they switch back to distance learning? And vice versa?

  • Students may elect to switch between learning modalities, as long as space is available. If you would like to switch from distance learning to in-person (or vice versa), please contact the school principal to discuss options.

My student is doing better in distance learning. Will it be possible for my student to stay in distance learning next year?

  • Currently, SFUSD is planning for all students to return to in-person learning in Fall 2021. We are awaiting additional guidance from the state of California to find out if we will be able to offer distance learning next year.

Which special education staff members will be returning to school sites?

  • Special education teachers (Mild/Moderate and Moderate/Severe Special Day Classes (SDCs), and elementary Resource Program Specialists (RSP)) teachers will return to in-person learning.
  • Paraeducators, related service providers (speech therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, etc.), school psychologists and Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERMHS) providers will be providing services in-person, or via distance learning, if appropriate, and to promote the maintenance of stable groups. 
  • Middle and high schools special education staff will be returning to school sites to support focal students (homeless and foster youth, students in public housing, newcomers and those who have shown the lowest overall online engagement) and returning students in SDCs.

What procedures do parents and caregivers follow for admittance into a school building?

  • At this time, SFUSD is limiting non-essential visitors, including volunteers, to campus. SFDPH Guidance provides: “Discourage parents and other family members from entering the school. Avoid allowing family members into classrooms and other student areas.”

Can parents and guardians have an in-person meeting with their child’s teacher or other school staff?

  • All adult-to-adult meetings are to remain virtual in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This requirement includes conferences, consultations, and Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings.

Are students participating in distance learning able to participate in aftercare or does this disrupt stable groups?

  • Per the San Francisco Department of Public Health Guidance (SFDPH Guidance), students may participate in up to two extracurricular stable groups.

Why are general education students not being prioritized for in-person school?  What if your child has a paraeducator, needs to have in-person support, and they end up with a hybrid schedule?  

  • SFUSD is working to bring back as many students for as many hours, as possible. Please contact your child’s case manager to discuss any additional support your child needs.

What is the guidance around physical spacing between teachers and students?

  • Staff and student desks will be spaced six feet apart. 
  • Adults will socially distance (six feet) from students, as much as possible, while meeting their developmental and learning needs. If a student is unable to socially distance from a staff member, then students and staff will maximize their use of the personal protective equipment (PPE) provided. 

What about students who have disabilities or medical conditions and are unable to maintain six feet of social distancing?

  • Staff will accommodate students who are unable to socially distance in order to meet their needs. Staff will be provided with additional PPE, as needed, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect both students and staff. 

Will accommodations be available for students who may struggle to wear a mask due to their disability or medical condition?

  • Yes, individuals with a documented medical reason to not wear a face covering will be accommodated as appropriate. For students whose exemptions are due to developmental delay, autism or other conditions that limit their ability to tolerate face masks, staff will encourage and remind them to wear their face mask as much as possible.
  • Schools will take into account equity and each student’s individual circumstances when deciding how to best support students in wearing face masks and encourage and remind students to wear their face mask as much as possible. 

What accommodations are being made for students who require a dedicated nurse or other medical care during the school day?

  • SFUSD is obtaining medical orders, care plans, and medication forms for students who are returning in person, who need these services to be in school, and training school staff as needed to provide health care services while following COVID-19 safety measures. SFUSD is also coordinating with nonpublic agencies (NPA) to provide coverage and PPE for health services during the school day as needed. 

My child is in a Deaf & Hard of Hearing (DHH) Special Day Class (SDC) with specialized acoustics, how can we ensure appropriate ventilation while ensuring that acoustics still work?

  • School sites are working with facilities and the special education department to address ventilation and the needs of individual students.

 

Strategies to prevent spread of COVID-19 in schools

What is the guidance around physical spacing between teachers and students?

  • Staff and student desks will be spaced six feet apart. 

  • Adults will socially distance (six feet) from students, as much as possible, while meeting their developmental and learning needs. If a student is unable to socially distance from a staff member, then students and staff will maximize their use of the personal protective equipment (PPE) provided. 

What about students who have disabilities or medical conditions and are unable to maintain six feet of social distancing?

  • Staff will accommodate students who are unable to socially distance in order to meet their needs. Staff will be provided with additional PPE, as needed, to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect both students and staff. 

Will accommodations be available for students who may struggle to wear a mask due to their disability or medical condition?

  • Yes, individuals with a documented medical reason to not wear a face covering will be accommodated as appropriate. For students whose exemptions are due to developmental delay, autism or other conditions that limit their ability to tolerate face masks, staff will encourage and remind them to wear their face mask as much as possible.

  • Schools will take into account equity and each student’s individual circumstances when deciding how to best support students in wearing face masks and encourage and remind students to wear their face mask as much as possible. 

What accommodations are being made for students who require a dedicated nurse or other medical care during the school day?

  • SFUSD is obtaining medical orders, care plans, and medication forms for students who are returning in person, who need these services to be in school, and training school staff as needed to provide health care services while following COVID-19 safety measures. SFUSD is also coordinating with nonpublic agencies (NPA) to provide coverage and PPE for health services during the school day as needed.

My child is in a Deaf & Hard of Hearing (DHH) Special Day Class (SDC) with specialized acoustics, how can we ensure appropriate ventilation while ensuring that acoustics still work?

  • School sites are working with facilities and the special education department to address ventilation and the needs of individual students.

Prior Written Notice (PWN)

What is a PWN?

  • Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), parents have legal rights called procedural safeguards. One of these safeguards is called a Prior Written Notice (PWN) This provision states the school must give parents written notice any time it adds, changes or denies educational services to their child or wants to change the child’s placement or make adjustments to their IEP.  

What PWN documents will I be receiving as we return for in-person instruction?

  • Students may receive up to three PWNs as SFUSD transitions back to in-person learning:
    • A PWN addressing the transitioning back from remote learning. This will be sent in your return to in person learning packet.
    • A PWN addressing Extended School Year (ESY), if your child qualifies. This letter will be sent via email or US mail if no email address is available.
    • A PWN for COVID-Recovery Services, as appropriate.

Will there need to be an IEP meeting to discuss these PWNs?

  • If parents/guardians and staff are in agreement, no meeting is needed. 
  • If parents/guardians have additional concerns or questions they can contact their case manager and/or request an IEP meeting.
  • It is important for families to review their IEPs with their school sites to ensure that the IEP is written such that it covers both in-person and distance learning.

Individual Education Program (IEP)

Will my student's IEP or their Emergency Learning Plan (ELP) be in effect once they return to in person learning?

  • The ELP is actually a new component of the IEP that takes effect whenever there is a situation that keeps students out of school for more than 10 days (such as earthquakes, fires, and pandemics).  

    • For students choosing to remain in virtual learning, ELP services will be implemented. ELP minutes should be comparable to IEP minutes.

    • For students returning for in-person instruction, IEP minutes will be implemented. 

    • For RSP students, who are returning for in-person learning, their schedule may need to be adjusted to ensure IEP minutes are fully implemented.

    • For hybrid learning, students will not be out of school for more than 10 consecutive days, so the IEP will be in effect and fully implemented.

Will IEP meetings be virtual or in-person this spring?

  • All meetings will continue to be virtual for both students participating in distance learning and in person learning.

Transportation for Special Education

Will families of students who have transportation in their IEP automatically be notified about their child’s transportation schedule, or will parents have to sign up? 

  • Home to school transportation services have been developed for any student assigned to in person learning who has transportation in their IEP.

  • Parents/guardians do not need to take any action at this time.

  • Families will receive notices about their child’s transportation schedule via email or US mail starting the week of March 29th.

  • If families do not receive a letter they should contact transportation@sfusd.edu

Can families pause transportation services for the spring but resume transportation services next fall?

  • Yes, families may send their request to  transportation@sfusd.edu

Who qualifies for special education transportation services?

  • Special education transportation is defined in federal regulation [34 CFR Section 300.34(c)(16 )] as a related service. SFUSD is required to provide transportation to students with disabilities if transportation is required to assist such students to benefit from their educational programs.

How can families add transportation services to their child’s IEP?

  • Discuss your child’s transportation needs with your case manager so they can set up an IEP meeting to discuss eligibility and service options. 

Will special education bus routes align with stable classroom "cohorts"? 

  • Bus routes are designed to serve one individual school. For example, a school bus with a capacity of 20 students going to school (A) has been reduced to 8 riders, one rider per seat under COVID social distancing guidelines. 

Will SFUSD Special Education Transportation services be provided by First Student or Zum?

  • First Student will be providing transportation services for SFUSD students this spring. The District will transition services to Zum for the start of the fall 2021-22 school year. 

Additional Transportation Resources

Special Education Assessments

For students returning for in-person learning, how will assessments be addressed?

  • All assessments must be completed within 60 days. 

  • School psychologists, RSP and SDC teachers, and Related Service Providers will be completing in-person assessments for students whose assessments are due. If parents do not consent to in-person assessment, then the assessors will need to determine if appropriate alternative assessment options exist.

How will SFUSD address the backlog of students who are waiting to be tested? Will you extend in-person testing into this summer? 

  • The Assessment Center has been set up to help address the backlog of special education evaluations.

  • SFUSD intends to continue to conduct both in person and virtual assessments to mitigate further delays in completing assessments. 

Will independent evaluators be allowed into school sites for observations?

  • Yes, if a virtual observation is not appropriate and as long as they follow visitor protocols including:

    • Health screening

    • Wearing a face covering and following social distancing guidelines

    • Obtaining prior approval of principal.

Related services (Speech, OT, PT, etc.)

Will students receive in-person speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy and other therapies and services?

  • Yes, related service providers will provide in-person services consistent with public health guidelines, unless it is appropriate to provide such services virtually in order to promote the maintenance of stable groups. 

  • While students from the same stable group can receive services together, staff will avoid mixing students from different stable groups (classrooms).

I’m worried that my child’s service provider will also be visiting at a lot of other school sites and a lot of different classrooms.

  • SFDPH Guidance provides that adults may move between stable groups of students. For students with disabilities, SFDPH Guidance affirms: “Provide accommodations and related services for special education, learning disabilities and medical conditions, even if it creates cross-over between stable groups.”

  • Staff and administrators who are not part of a particular group can visit different groups as long as it is instructionally necessary and they follow the safety measures:

    • Sign in using the Classroom Visitor Sign In Log posted outside every classroom. 

    • Wear a face covering

    • Physically distance when possible

    • Stay only as long as needed

    • Providers pushing into classrooms to provide services where they are in close proximity will also use a plexiglass partition.

If my child has to receive virtual services while they are in school, where will students go when it is time to have their session?

  • If the student needs to access the providers virtually, they will be provided supervision, a quiet space and chrome book to receive these services. 

My child is a preschool walk-in student who is coming from the community or attends another preschool site. Can my child receive in-person services?

  • Preschool walk-in students who come from the community or attend another preschool site can be seen in-person. In order to promote stable groups, such services may be provided virtually if they can be provided as effectively as in-person services or if parents request to remain in distance learning. 

Do related service minutes need to be scheduled during the instructional day?

  • Related service minutes need to be scheduled during the school day.

Paraeducators

Will paraeducators be supporting students during in-person learning?

Yes, paraeducators will be supporting students during in-person learning. School staff are allowed to move between stable groups of students.

Early Education

Will Transitional Kindergarten be included in the plans for in-person learning?

  • Yes, those students are included. 

Will itinerant services or community based organizations be able to support SFUSD preschools?

  • Not at this time.

What are the plans for preschool students?

  • The number of Early Education Department students selected by the District for in-person-only learning will be based on the staffing and space available at the site. Each in-person-only class will consist of no more than sixteen (16) individuals (counting both students and adults). 

Elementary (PK-5) Resource Specialist Program (RSP)

What is the guidance for RSP Teachers when scheduling pull-out groups?

  • RSP Teachers may pull students from stable groups. 

  • RSP teachers may also pull students across different stable classroom groups and provide interventions, if the teachers have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. SFDPH Guidance provides that cross-over between stable groups is allowed to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

  • RSP teachers are not limited in terms of number of students or groups with whom they interact, adults are allowed to move between stable groups.

Can the RSP teachers Provide Push-in Support?

  • Yes, RSP teachers can push-into the classroom if required by the IEP and services cannot be applied in pull-out or virtual models. 

Will RSP teachers be able to provide SAI during the four days of teacher-prep prior to return to in-person? 

  • Yes. As teachers prepare for a return to in-person learning, RSP teachers will ensure that student’s Emergency Learning Plan (ELP) minutes are implemented.

If a school is going hybrid (2 days in person only), can RSP students in general education attend school for the four days that the school is open in person and be in two different stable groups? 

  • At this time, students can only be part of one stable group.
  • Talk to your child’s case manager, if your child requires additional support.

Elementary (PK-5) Special Day Classes (SDCs)

Do mild/moderate SDC students return at the same time as moderate/severe SDC or with general education students?

  • Mild/moderate SDC students will return with general education students.

What schedule do Special Day Classes (SDC) follow?

  • PK Moderate/Severe SDCs follow Schedule D for in-person instruction. 

  • TK - 5 Moderate/Severe SDCs follow Schedule C for in-person instruction.

  • TK - 5 Mild/Moderate SDCs follow Schedule A for in-person instruction (with some classes following Schedule C if necessary to meet student needs).

Who will be in charge of setting the new schedule for my child’s school? Who can I contact for more information?

  • The school principal is responsible for setting the schedule for their school site. If you have concerns about your child’s schedule, please contact your child’s teacher or case manager.

Will students in SDC be able to “mainstream” into general education classrooms? 

  • As long as a student’s needs can be met virtually, students in SDCs should mainstream remotely into general education classes from their in-person instruction in order to maintain stable groups and reduce transmission.

What if my child is the only student returning for in-person instruction, will their teacher still be asked to return for in-person instruction?

  • Yes, their teacher will be asked to return for in-person instruction and/or accommodations will be made for them to join a different stable group. 

What if my child is the only one not returning to in-person in their SDC due to health reasons. Will my child be able to zoom in with their classmates during the day to participate with music, art, and story times and remain part of the class community?

  • Staff will work with families to ensure distance learning students are included as much as possible. Discuss any concerns about your child's instruction with their case manager or the school principal. 

Can an SDC teacher provide both distance learning to students who opt to remain fully virtual and in-person learning for those students who opt to return?

  • Yes, several ways exist for providing instruction to students:

    • Teachers can set up centers for in-person students who would be assisted by paraeducators. During in-person centers, SDC teachers may teach students who have remained in distance learning.

    • When in-person students access general education classes virtually, the SDC teacher can teach students who have remained in distance learning. 

    • While SDC teachers are not expected to teach in-person and distance learning students simultaneously, if the teacher prefers, s/he may live-stream instruction to meet IEP needs. 

What if the instructional day does not provide enough SAI minutes in person?

  • The Mild/Moderate SDC Schedule A classes have a 240 minute instructional day. If a student’s IEP provides for more than 240 minutes of SAI, then the student will need to be assigned synchronous or asynchronous (if appropriate) SAI work for the additional time required to meet IEP minutes.

  • Reach out to your child’s case manager if you have any concerns about how their IEP will be implemented.

Middle & High School Special Day Classes (SDCs)

When are middle school and high school SDCs programs expected to return to in-person? 

  • The expected date of return for all middle/high school SDC programs, including SOAR, is April 26, 2021.

What is the schedule for high school moderate/severe SDC students?

  • High school moderate/severe SDCs follow Schedule C, which begins at 8:15 a.m. and ends at 2:15 p.m.

How will students in SDC classes access mainstreaming opportunities?

  • As long as a student’s needs can be met virtually, students in SDCs should mainstream remotely into general education classes from their in-person instruction in order to maintain stable groups.

What about kids who are in multiple SDC or mostly general education classes - would they return with SDCs or participate virtually? 

  • Students are considered to be in a SDC pathway, when they spend at least 50% of their day in a SDC.

  • SDCs should operate as stable groups.

  • If a student is in multiple SDCs, then the student will be assigned to one SDC as the student’s stable group and then they will access the other classes remotely and/or the SDC teachers will rotate between the stable groups.

  • If a student is in a SDC, they may return for in-person learning and continue to access general education classrooms remotely to participate with students who are remaining in distance learning. 

Have schools identified spaces for deescalation/calm down spaces? 

  • Yes, de-escalation and calm down spaces are being located by school sites.

Live-Streaming or Recording

Can teachers record or live stream classes so my student can participate?

  • Yes, classes may be recorded or live streamed, as necessary, to meet student IEP or 504 needs. For example, if a student is going to miss a live lesson because s/he is mainstreaming virtually and/or attending related services, the teacher could record the lesson and have the student access it another time.
  • Alternatively, if a student in distance learning would benefit from a lesson that a teacher is providing to students in-person, the teacher could allow the student to join via live-stream.

Transition Programs

Are transition students returning to in person learning? If so, when?

  • Transition students are invited to return to in-person learning on April 26, 2021.

Will students in the ACCESS program be attending their work locations?

  • Students will be participating in career exploration, training, and education via simulation. Students can go into the community, but not into work sites. 

My transition student works in the community and on transportation for their goals. Can they resume these activities during in-person learning?

  • Students can go into the community to work on their IEP goals, but not into community sites or on Muni for the remainder of the school year.

  • However, for related services such as orientation and mobility, if the IEP goal requires this type of learning, the provider will communicate with parents about participating in community activities and taking public transportation. If parents decline the offer to provide services that utilize public transportation or access to the community, simulated situations via in-person learning will be provided.

Home Hospital Instruction (HHI)

Are HHI teachers allowed to return to in-person instruction in homes?

  • SFUSD is working to return these staff members for in-person instruction that will directly benefit a student.
  • When these services resume, COVID Safety Protocols will be followed.

Summer Programs

In the past years, students with IEP have received priority enrollment in summer programs and park and rec programs. Is this available this summer?

  • SFUSD and the Department Children Youth and Their Families are working together to address this concern and support all students.

Extended School Year (ESY)

What is ESY?

  • Extended School Year (ESY) is an extension of existing IEP services during the summer recess to assist a student in maintaining skills on goals and objectives from their current IEP.  The primary goal of ESY is to limit regression of skills gained during the school year.

  • Please read the ESY FAQ for. more information

Covid Recovery Services

What are COVID Recovery Services?

  • The term COVID Recovery Service addresses potential learning loss due to the impact of the pandemic. COVID Recovery Services are additional services, which are not part of a student’s IEP. These services address the impact of COVID-19 related disruptions on a student’s education needs.
  • SFUSD will be proactively offering COVID Recovery Services through remote and/or in-person learning models to assist the students in making progress toward their IEP goals, and to mitigate the impact of the spring 2020 school closures and distance learning on students. COVID Recovery Services are not necessarily hour-for-hour or minute-for-minute calculations; rather, these services are dependent on individualized student needs. For example, a student may not require any COVID Recovery Services, if s/he met IEP goals and progressed in the general education curriculum; while another student may only require additional reading support, as s/he thrived through distance learning math. 
  • Individualized determinations will be made for each student.