Special Education School Closure Q&A

Do you have a question for the Arlington Public Schools (APS) Office of Special Education during the current COVID-19 school closure?  The Office of Special Education (OSE) will accept questions each week and reply once a week with answers via APS School Talk from the Parent Resource Center. This form will be open until Friday, June 5th.  You can submit the form as many times as you need. Submit your question here.

DISCLAIMER – Please only use this form for more general questions. If you have an issue or concern directly involving a student, please reach out to your school team first, using the recommended communication paths. If these steps have been taken and your needs have not been met, please reach out directly to the Office of Special Education.  https://www.apsva.us/special-education/


Posted on May 22, 2020


I asked a question last week about not receiving feedback on work submitted by my child with an IEP and asking what expectations were for feedback from teachers and case carriers. I do not believe the answer provided — “Please email your child’s teacher asking for feedback or contact your building administrator for help” — answers my question. To rephrase, has APS set any minimum expectations or guidelines, centrally and across all schools, for the amount or kind of feedback that teachers and case carriers should be giving to students who receive special education services?

APS has not established a minimum expectation about providing student feedback. APS expects teachers to deliver services and supports. Please email your child’s teacher or administrator if you have concerns.


Posted on May 15, 2020


My elementary student with an IEP has turned in work on Google classroom every week. But we have received no feedback from his classroom teacher or his sped teacher. I know there are no grades assigned for Q4 work, but are there any expectations for feedback (corrections, guidance, etc) from either the classroom teacher or case carrier/sped teacher? How will we know if the review work we’re doing is on grade level or if we’re falling behind?

Please email your child’s teacher asking for feedback or contact your building administrator for help.

We are under the impression that new skills and/or content will not be introduced since the closure of school. From our understanding, teachers are re-enforcing previously taught skills. How is there equity for students who receive SPED accommodations in a specific content area? How are students who receive support in a specific area supposed to have an equitable encounter with learning when teachers are only uploading work in Canvas with no support for students who receive accommodations in that specific content area? My child’s Math teacher referred us to YouTube for additional support.

The purpose of not introducing new content/topics is to address equity for all students. Accommodations relevant to what the student needs to access the learning activities should be provided. Please talk to your child’s case carrier if additional support is needed, or talk to your building administrator for help.

What would ESY look like for each of the summer school options being discussed? As I read it, the phrase “students who need it most” could mean that not everyone identified as needing ESY will get it. In addition, if summer school is online, will teachers and therapists be changed or will some effort be made to have students continue work with professionals who know them from the school year?

APS is still in the process of determining what summer school options there will be. The Office of Special Education (OSE) is working closely with the Department of Teaching and Learning to determine ESY options.

If final grades are being calculated from the third quarter, how will children who were on an academic plan which includes the 4th quarter be considered? My child was performing below grade level and just before school closed, a plan was developed to bring her up to speed. How will this impact her next school year since the plan was not executed?

4th quarter power standards (subsets of learning standards that educators have determined to be the highest priority or most important for students to learn) will be included into the curriculum next year. Content offices are working on revised curriculum guides now.

As a follow-up to a question regarding related services, it appears that different related service providers have chosen different approaches, some using 1:1 video sessions and others using asynchronous approaches for the same student. The response provided earlier was indirect, referencing the general guidance. Is it accurate that there is nothing to prevent related service providers from providing 1:1 virtual sessions?

Related service providers are using a variety of alternative instructional means on a case by case basis determined by the skill being taught.


Posted on May 8, 2020

As an APS parent, I feel like I am getting mixed messages about whether the “assignments” being given to APS students are actually “required.” We had gotten the impression that the 4th quarter would not introduce new concepts but that teachers would be providing students with opportunities to reinforce the concepts learned in quarters 1-3, and that the “assignments” during this time are technically optional and would not be graded. My child requires substantial hands-on accommodations that cannot be provided by APS right now. We are doing our best to support him to do as much academic work as possible, but we also work full time and simply cannot help him keep up with the volume of work being “assigned.” The teachers are treating these “assignments” like they are mandatory, which contradicts with my understanding of APS’s official stance on this quarter. If they are in fact mandatory, and my child cannot actually complete them due to his disability, can APS fail him or give him an “incomplete” for the fourth quarter? If so, wouldn’t that be inequitable and discriminatory?

APS is following Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) guidance to not grade students’ work after schools closed on March 13th. We have moved to a three marking period model. Students’ final grades for the year are composed of the average of their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd quarter grades. Final exams for secondary coursework will not be included in the final grade. Assignments are optional for fourth quarter.

My student has not heard from his case carrier or Sped teachers. I asked about this and was told by various teachers that they do not have access to Canvas and are told to send communication via Synergy. Apparently Synergy messages only appear in StudentVue, which students do not check. The Continuous Learning Plan advises teachers & students to use Canvas. Unless teachers communicate via Canvas the student won’t see the message. This further disadvantages SpEd students. How can this be fixed?

Please contact your building administrator to determine what might be happening.


Posted on May 1, 2020


For first grade, are Occupational Therapists (OTs) allowed to provide 1-on-1 therapies?

The APS occupational and physical therapists are working hard to deliver services to students. Best practice dictates that collaboration is crucial for student success. You can expect your OT and/or PT to collaborate with various school providers to ensure your student can access learning, and continue to grow, during the COVID-19 shut down. Descriptions of the role of special education teachers and related services providers and additional details are outlined in the Special Education: Continuous Learning Support guidance document and direct and indirect alternative instructional means may include:

    • Co-teaching
    • Small group instruction using video technologies
    • Providing student specific learning activities
    • Small group instruction
    • Open office hours
    • Providing coaching for parents to deliver home learning activities
    • Collaborating with other teachers to develop, adapt, and modify materials and tools
    • Collaborating with teachers and related service providers, such as psychologists, to design and deliver instruction
    • Working with caregivers to set up daily schedules and routines 

Posted on April 24, 2020


Our child is transitioning from middle school to high school and we were trying to schedule a transition IEP meeting before schools were closed. She currently attends a contract services school. What is the timing for scheduling these meetings among all relevant parties?

Your child’s case carrier should be reaching out to you to set up a transition IEP mtg. If you have not heard from the case carrier, please reach out to the case carrier via email.

APS has stated that it will not provide direct instruction in special education due to guidance from VDOE. But FCPS appears to have interpreted that guidance differently. On a FAQ page on FCPS’s site ( https://www.fcps.edu/news-features-and-events/news/coronavirus-update/faqs-special-education), they state: “During distance learning, special education may include small group instruction as well as some one-on-one instructional time. Related services will provide the support necessary for students to access and participate in a distance learning environment. Special education services will range from teacher and team supports to real-time, multimedia interaction with families and students.” How does APS account for the difference in interpretation of VDOE guidance for special ed? If FCPS is providing special education instruction, why isn’t APS?

APS is providing Alternative Means of Instruction, which includes a variety of both direct and indirect options for teachers and families. Details are provided in the Special Education: Continuous Learning Support guidance document posted on the Office of Special Education and PRC webpages. 

I understand we may not have Extended School Year (ESY). Can kids keep devices and still be able to do assignments from this year?

At this time there are no plans to collect devices over the summer.

My child has dyslexia and is doing My Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC). This has been great for us over the time away from school. Can we keep doing this program over the summer? We had already planned on being in summer school, but don’t think that will happen. MVRC can help keep the summer slip to a minimum. Thanks!

APS is still determining if our licenses will be active over the summer. Once a determination has been made, your child’s case carrier will let you know if the program will be available for use during the summer. 


Posted on April 17, 2020


When will schools open?

We don’t know yet. Hopefully we will all know soon.

Is Transportation Services focusing on improvements for next year, or is it all about delivering meals and virus response?

Yes, transportation is still working with OSE on transportation improvements.

Schools in many other counties are having teachers much more involved in the distance learning process. Teachers are spending 4-5 hours per day logged in to video chats teaching their classrooms daily. Does APS plan to get teachers more active during this time to keep students on track?

APS is implementing a Continuous Learning Plan. At this time, it does not include a directive for teachers to provide 4-5 hours of video chats.

How will the learning of students receiving homebound services be supported? Occasional check-ins by her SpEd case carrier or by Edgenuity teachers are insufficient.

Families of students who were receiving homebound instruction prior to the school closure should work with their home school to receive learning materials and supports available for students with and without disabilities.

Can speech therapists conduct virtual sessions with students in accordance with the goals in the student’s IEP?

Related Service providers will reach out to families to determine what type of Alternative Instructional Means will be provided.

I have a child transferring back to APS this fall, who previously had an IEP. Given that schools are closed right now and with all the uncertainty about what school will look like in the fall, when and with whom should I get in touch about how to transition him back with his IEP? Do I contact his new school over the summer or before school gets out in June? Contact the central office? He has never attended the school he will be in this fall.

The APS registration webpage has been updated to help parents enroll their children for the remainder of the 2019-2020 School Year. Below are steps families, LSRC and schools will follow for conditional registration for the current school year:

    1. Parents will complete a “Conditional Registration” process online.
    2. Before registering, families are encouraged to review the Student Registration Checklist English | Spanish
    3. Parents need to download the the Student Registration Form* English  Spanish
      (*Note: Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed to view and complete the downloaded APS Student Registration Form)
    4. Parents will upload registration forms through a secure website linked on the Conditional Registration page.

What is the policy on lending adaptive equipment during school closure?

If this is for positioning/mobility equipment, Physical Therapists (PT) are reaching out to families. If you have not yet been contacted by your child’s PT, please contact PT to discuss. If referring to other types of adaptive equipment, please discuss with the student’s case carrier.

When/how can parents get medication left at clinic? Thanks!

For non-controlled medications, schools will be mailing the medication home to the family. For controlled medications, schools will be reaching out to families to arrange a pick up time.

My child was recommended for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) right before school went virtual. Will you still be honoring the process?

Yes, your child’s school should be reaching out to schedule an IEP meeting.

What date will the seniors graduate this year? Are they going to receive their diplomas in the mail or have a graduation?

Graduation dates and delivery of diplomas will be communicated as soon as plans have been developed.

How will specialized instruction be provided to preschool speech-only IEPs?

Pre-K students will receive support through a variety of Alternative Instructional Means during the closure for COVID-19. Your child’s case carrier will be connecting with you to discuss plans. 

We had started the process of a student services review/meeting with our high school student’s school because of our child’s ongoing problems, including increasingly poor academic performance and behavioral problems in and out of school. The first meeting was scheduled more than a month in advance because that is all the school said was available and then it was canceled due to the quarantine. Now we are being told that nothing can be done to move forward on this other than “information gathering” until next school year. Since the continuous learning plan places the burden of making sure that a student’s education continues entirely on the family, other than APS providing some content and suggestions for good practices, schedules & study habits, none of which our child is willing to follow, what can APS do to support this student from now until the next school year starts? Since we’re already in conversation with the school about this, we are asking for some specific recommendations you have and answers that go beyond telling us to talk with appropriate people at the school or a list of mental health resources (we already have that). Thank you!

If a parent would like to schedule a Student Support Team meeting, the parent can call or email the Student Support Coordinator assigned to the school. During this meeting, if the team agrees that assessments are needed to determine if the student has a disability, we will need to extend the timeline for testing due to school closure. Contact information for Student Support Coordinators can be found here. You may also contact our Parent Resource Center at 703.228.7239 or prc@apsva.us for resources on supporting learning at home.

I would like to find out what plans APS has for reviewing IEPs up for renewal prior to next school year. I have heard some districts are doing virtual meetings with IEP team and parents. Is this a consideration

Yes, schools will be setting up annual IEP meetings either on the phone or through video conferences.