Special Education Distance Learning
Columbia Heights Public Schools students and teachers began distance learning Monday, March 30, 2020.
Teachers and staff have been working hard to ensure students are receiving high quality and engaging instruction during this time. Staff are excited to connect with students via online or phone each school day.
Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-41 extending the Distance Learning Period established in Executive Order 20-19 through the end of the 2019-2020 school calendar year. The last day of school for Columbia Heights Public Schools students will be May 28.
The Columbia Heights Special Education Department is working on what distance learning looks like for each student with a current Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). During this time of distance learning, we will continue to focus on providing specialized instruction at the same frequency noted in your child’s IEP/IFSP to ensure consistency and equal access. Additionally, most accommodations/modifications will continue to be provided as appropriate as your child is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Please note that some accommodations/modifications may not be applicable while distance learning is occurring. The specific services, supports, and accommodations listed on your child’s current IEP/IFSP will resume when face-to-face instruction in schools is reinstated.
Students with disabilities have equal access to distance learning. Special Education Licensed staff and related service providers have collaborated with grade level and subject specific teachers to determine accommodation and modifications needed for students to access the general education curriculum. Special Education teachers have developed and created lessons specific to students' needs and their service minutes. The goal is to provide consistency and continuity with what has occurred in face-to-face learning within distance learning. Students who may have specific special education classrooms their licensed teachers have developed and created lessons for the content areas for students enrolled in their classes based on standards currently working on and service provided.
Instruction can occur through the following means:
- Paper packets or worksheets
- Telephone instruction
- Online resources
- This can also include platforms such as Hangout Meet and Zoom.
During distance learning, special education licensed staff will be checking in with students at the same frequency they would have at school or for home visits. If the frequency of service for students is daily, weekly or monthly, licensed staff would communicate with students at this rate. This will provide continuity and consistency for families and students. Finally, distance learning will be supported by Educational Assistants to maintain relationship built, offer support and encouragement during distance learning.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has stated that in a school setting, FERPA, rather than the HIPAA privacy rule, applies to student information and student privacy. This includes information maintained by health-related service providers such as Speech Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists when they are working for or on behalf of the school to provide services to students. Furthermore, MDE states that the school should use a platform that incorporates security measures to ensure that private data is encrypted and that it cannot be accessed by individuals who do not have the authority to access the data. This is accomplished through the use of Zoom, Hangout Meets and SeeSaw.
Due Process during Distance Learning
During Distance learning, IFSPs/IEPs must continue to be implemented. IFSP/IEP meetings to review IEP goals and services/Family Outcomes will occur through virtual meetings and phone conferences. Parent input is a key cornerstone of the IEP process in Columbia Heights and will continue to be throughout Distance Learning. As it relates to evaluations and reevaluations, these will continue to move forward if possible. Initial and reevaluation may be delayed due to the need for face-to-face testing with a myriad of assessments (IQ and Academic testing). Please refer to the parent letter and follow up with your case manager if you have questions.
Mental Health Support, School Partnerships and Students in Transition
During Distance Learning, Columbia Heights Public Schools mental health support personnel (school social workers and school psychologists) will check in with students they support at the same frequency that occurred when students were physically in school. If the frequency of service is daily or weekly staff will communicate with them at this rate. This will provide consistency for families and students. Additionally, these support personnel have collaborated with Lee Carlson Center (LCC) for Mental Health and Well-Being in coordinating support for students during distance learning. Lee Carlson Center (LCC) will continue to provide individual teletherapy to support students who they are currently working with. Students experiencing transition or who are homeless will be contacted by school staff to determine needs during distance learning and provide support as needed. Information regarding community resources (food hubs, LCTS gift cards, free meals, etc.) have been shared and followed up by schools staff. Finally, the Columbia Heights Public Schools mental health support personnel, have researched county and community support for families to access during distance learning. To access these resources please contact your school social worker and/or school psychologists.
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