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Special Education Requirements during COVID-19

Friday, November 20, 2020

Dear District Administrator,

The purpose of this email is to update you on special education requirements as you respond to COVID-19.

Regardless of the method of instruction (e.g. in person, hybrid, distance), the special education requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Chapter 115 of the Wisconsin Statutes remain in effect. School districts must continue to provide a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) to each student with an individualized education program (IEP). While most students are able to receive FAPE effectively through distance learning options, some students with disabilities are not. These students are not able to make the required progress toward their IEP goals and in the general education curriculum solely through distance learning. Consequently, some students with disabilities require instruction, related services, or both, in-person, in order to receive FAPE as required by both state and federal law. This is regardless of the manner in which instruction is being offered to the general school population.

As school districts work with local health departments to make decisions, districts should specifically discuss whether limited in-person individual and/or small group instruction or services can be safely provided to the small number of students with IEPs who require it in order to access FAPE.

If districts are unable to provide these services, either because there is a health order that prohibits it or it has been determined through consultation with the local health department that it is unsafe to do so, districts must determine and provide compensatory education to these students when in-person instruction and services becomes available. The department has developed a question and answer document that addresses special education requirements during this public health emergency, as well as a bulletin on determining additional services.

If you have any questions, contact Julia Hartwig at