Special Education FAQs - COVID-19

Special Education & Emergency Learning Plans during COVID - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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.  

For answers to other questions you may have, go to this landing page or the employee district website and click on the FAQs page related to your question. If you don't see your question, you can also submit questions on this google form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Senate Bill No. 98

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

  • Senate Bill 98 (SB-98)
  • The school day has required instructional minutes as follows: 180 minutes for kindergarten; 230 minutes for grades 1-3; and 240 minutes for grades 4-12. 
  • Each student must have a daily live interaction with a certificated staff member  
  • SFUSD must document daily student participation.

Does SB-98 have specific requirements for students with 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.  
  • As of June 29, 2020, this “Emergency Learning Plan” must be developed at initial IEPs, or at the next regularly scheduled revision of the IEP.
  • The following is the California Department of Education’s Guidance: 2020 Budget Act and Special Education - Laws, Regulations

Prior Written Notice (PWN)

What is a PWN?

A PWN 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 PWN necessary for the ELP?

  • The ELP is proposing a change to a student’s IEP for distance learning. Thus, SFUSD must provide parents with PWN explaining these proposed changes.
  • SFUSD has a combined PWN and ELP Template: PWN & ELP Template.

Emergency Learning Plans

What is an Emergency Learning Plan (ELP)?

  • An ELP is a plan for how a student will be served when instruction cannot be delivered in-person, and must include a description of: Special education and related services; Supplementary aids and services; Transition services; and Extended school year services. 
  • The ELP must include synchronous (live via Zoom, Google Meet, or telephone) and asynchronous (video models, packets, google classroom) instruction and related services. 
  • As SFUSD is starting the 2020-21 school year with Distance Learning under emergency conditions, Case Managers in collaboration with families must develop the ELPs immediately in order to ensure that the student receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Is the Distance Learning Plan from the Spring 2020 the same as the ELP?

  • Probably not‒the ELPs have statutory requirements (outlined above) which may not have been included in the Distance Learning Plans. The ELPs should be more robust, as they require daily live instruction. Accordingly, ELPs will replace the Distance Learning Plans created in the Spring 2020. For students in SDCs, case managers must ensure that each student receives the minimum number of instructional minutes required by SB-98.

Calculating Service Minutes

How should I calculate the proposed number of Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) minutes?

  • SAI should be adjusted based on student individual needs and IEP goals. Please refer to the Emergency Learning Plan Template, which breaks down all services that must be considered and listed in the IEP.
  • In order to ensure that students make progress on IEP goals, the following are guideposts for determining SAI minutes: 
    • Synchronous
      • RSP - two thirds of last-consented to IEP
      • SDC -  half of last-consented to IEP
      • Related Services - two thirds of last-consented to IEP
      • Ensure touchpoints and connectivity by offering--weekly/bi-weekly consultation to parents/weekly individual check-in with student 
    • Asynchronous
      • RSP - one third of last-consented to IEP
      • SDC - half of last-consented to IEP 
      • Related Services - one third of last-consented to IEP
  • Each student’s schedule must be reviewed to ensure that the total number of minutes complies with the requirements of SB-98.

How should I calculate the proposed number of Related Services minutes?

  • Consult with the Related Service Providers to determine how many service minutes the child requires to make progress on IEP goals via distance learning.

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

  • Yes, as long as the 1) special education teacher is supervising for SAI (or the general education if inclusion) and 2) SFUSD’s Protocol for Distance Learning (Distance Learning: Privacy & Boundaries Guidance) is followed including: advanced permission from principal, logging the contact, and principal invitation to Zoom sessions.

How should I calculate the proposed number of Intensive Individual Service (IIS) minutes?

  • IIS services should align with the area of need identified in the IEP and the required instructional minutes for a specific content area.

What if a student requires additional services as a result of distance learning, but those services are not in the current IEP?

  • Schedule a virtual IEP to review and revise the offer of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that will meet the student’s needs during distance learning.

Least Restrictive Environment

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

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

Ensuring Meaningful Parental Participation

How do I ensure that parents are able to provide meaningful input into the ELP?

  • Meaningful parent participation in the creation of an ELP is necessary.
  • Case Managers should schedule a discussion (via telephone, google hangout or zoom) with each of your student’s parents and guardians to discuss their child’s IEP needs. 
    • Ask parents or guardians for input on what did and did not work for their child in Spring 2020 Distance Learning and incorporate aspects to improve for Fall 2020.
  • When necessary, schedule an interpreter to help you communicate with the parent or guardian.
  • Follow PWN Parent Call Guidance.

What if a parent requests in-person services during emergency conditions?

  • Schedule a virtual IEP meeting to discuss the request.
  • Contact your Content Specialist or  Cohort Supervisor immediately to provide support given emergency conditions and applicable Health Orders.

Parental Consent

Do parents need to consent to the ELP?

  • Yes, as the ELP is part of the IEP, parents need to provide consent.

What type of consent is acceptable?

  • Parents can provide consent to the ELP by 1) signing ELP electronically 2) picture; 3) email and 4) text message.
    • Electronic consent: upload to SEIS
    • Picture of signed consent form (or screen shot with signature) and upload to SEIS
    • Email: save the email as a PDF and upload to SEIS
      • Must be from parent email on file
      • Must provide specific consent i.e., “I consent to the ELP.”
    • Text: take a screenshot and upload in SEIS
      • Must be from parent phone number on file
      • Must provide specific consent i.e., “I consent to the ELP.”
    • The California Department of Education has stated that “verbal” consent is insufficient.

What if a Parent does not consent to the ELP?

  • If parents do not consent, collaborate in good faith with parents/guardians to discuss revisions‒listening to parental concerns and engaging in open good faith discussions. In addition, case managers should offer to hold an Amendment virtual IEP meeting to discuss ELP.  
  • Case Managers should contact their Content Specialist or Special Education Supervisor for additional support in facilitating this process. 
  • Staff must document all outreach efforts in SEIS, including adding parent concerns in notes.

What services do I provide if a parent does not consent to the ELP?

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

Progress Reports

Should case managers send out Progress Reports on goals?

  • Yes, during distance learning case managers should continue to monitor student progress toward annual goals. Progress reports should be issued to parents or guardians at the same time as report cards for general education students.

The progress report must document the growth student is making on goals during distance learning. If a student is not making progress on a goal, then an IEP team meeting must be convened to discuss necessary adjustments in services.

Annual IEP Meeting

During distance learning, should the IEP team convene for a student’s annual IEP?

  • Yes. Case managers must offer to hold the meeting virtually either by telephone or Zoom/Google Meet, or combination. 

What if a parent requests an additional IEP meeting?

  • District staff should respond to the parent's request and schedule a remote IEP meeting to address parental concerns within 30 days of Parents’ request. 

SEIS & Service Tracking

How do I document services and student participation?

  • Tracking services is important for ensuring that the ELP is implemented with fidelity. You can use the SEIS Service tracker, Paradigm (Related Services) and or Synergy using the student contact log.

Timeline for completing an evaluation

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.  

What is the best practice for completing evaluations?

  • Recommendation:  We recommend that the District attempt to complete evaluations within the 60-day timeline to the best of its ability.  The IDEA allows the LEA and parent to agree to an extension of the 60-day timeline to complete an evaluation.   If the District believes that it will be difficult to meet the 60-day timeline, we recommend that you collaborate with the parent to extend the 60-day timeline.

Records Requests

If a parent makes a request for student records, how should District staff respond while all students are receiving distance learning?

  • CA Education Code §§ 56504 and 56043(n) & (o) provide that upon parent request, a school district must provide education records to the parent within five (5) business days. Under SB-117, this timeline is held in abeyance during the period of school closure. However, SB-117 encourages school districts to respond to parent requests for education records as expeditiously as possible. Further, it is unclear if the legislature intended SB 117 to remain in effect indefinitely if the pandemic prevents schools from reopening for all or a significant portion of the 2020-21 school year. In addition, the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. 1232g) requires school districts to respond to records requests within 45 days, and this requirement has not been waived.
  • As SFUSD is entering the 2020-21 school year with distance learning,  we advise school sites to provide parents with an electronic copy of all paper and digital records available within five business days of the receipt of the request, or as soon thereafter as possible. Pursuant to the District’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), the Principal or Principal’s delegate is responsible for responding to parental requests for all educational records. Pupil Services (Eddie Chung; chunge@sfsud.edu) can provide assistance extracting digital records from Synergy, WISH Log, BASIS and Illuminate.  The school site is responsible for copying the cumulative file, brown file and SEIS records if the brown file is at the school site.  Confer with the site Special Education Supervisor for assistance with the special education records. 
  • The FERPA 45 day timeline to respond has not been waived.  School sites should review the records requests received during Shelter-in-Place in the Spring 2020, and provide Parents with copies of the physical and digital files as soon as possible, but not more than 3 weeks of the start of the 2020-21 school year. 


Translation & Interpretation

How do I request an interpreter for a PWN phone call?

  • Put in a request for an interpreter using this Google Sheet.
  • To optimize scheduling of interpreters, group your request by language as much as possible. 

Have a draft version of a PWN to guide your discussion with families, as the Emergency Learning Plan may not be implemented until parents or guardians provide consent.

How do I request translation of PWN?

Special Education FAQs 8.5.2020

View our FAQs below or view the FAQs as a Google doc.

Special Education FAQs 3.26.2020

View our 3.26.2020 Special Education FAQs as a Google doc.


This page was last updated on March 31, 2022