Special Education Considerations During Virtual Learning


During the Covid-19 pandemic many schools have adopted remote or hybrid teaching and learning models. The Michigan Department of Education has provided guidance to school districts and parents for providing supports and services to students with disabilities. This guidance answers several questions about remote learning and addresses many topics. Specifically, the guidance discusses the use of Contingency Learning Plans and Recovery Services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Contingency Learning Plans (CLPs) are a separate, self-sustaining document that is not a part of your student’s IEP. A contingency learning plan is created by the school district team in order to provide alternatives to special education service provision when students cannot attend in person due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although CLPs are not mandated by state or federal law, most districts across the state have adopted CLPs to assist students during this time of uncertainty. A contingency learning plan does not replace your child’s IEP and the services provided in a contingency learning plan are not a substitute for the free and appropriate public education (FAPE) standard that the law requires. Instead, CLPs should be viewed as a roadmap to services if the school district transitions to full remote learning due to an increase in positive infection cases. If you have questions about your district’s use of CLPs, you should contact your student’s special education case manager.

Recovery Services can be provided as a result of a loss of instructional time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These services can be provided in addition to services already provided by the school district and are also not meant as a substitute for supports and services provided in your child’s IEP. Students receive Recovery Services after the IEP team reviews data supporting the actual impact of the loss of instruction during the Covid-19 shutdown. Recovery Services can include direct student supports and services, consultation to teachers and other service providers, or assistive technology for use during remote learning. Unlike contingency learning plans, adoption of Recovery Services is a decision that must take place during the IEP meeting. It is important to note that Recovery Services are not the same as compensatory services provided as the result of a state complaint or due process hearing. Review of Recovery Services by the IEP team is time limited and must occur no later than December 31, 2020.

In order to ensure that you fully access the resources available to you in this this new learning environment, you should review your student’s current IEP and address any deficiencies and areas of need that are present. Remember, you have the ability to request an IEP meeting or IEP amendment at any time during the year and you do not have to wait until the annual review date to address needs or concerns. Remote learning in the digital environment can be difficult, but you can use the tools and guidance available to ensure that your student is getting the most out of their individually designed supports and services.