School Reopening Information for Families of Students with Disabilities

APS Alert: The School Board has adopted a calendar change for the 2020-21 school year. The first day of school will be Tuesday, September 8. All students will begin the year online, with full-time distance learning. 

July 24, 2020

As parents/guardians are contemplating Arlington Public Schools (APS) Fall 2020 reopening plans, we know families of students who receive special education services and supports may have unique questions and concerns.  As always, look forward to collaborating with you to ensure that your child has a successful 2020-21 academic year.

Although all students will begin the year with full-time distance learning, families were requested to select either the Hybrid In-Person/Distance Learning Model or the Full-Time Distance Model for their students in July to support effective planning for future transitions to in-school instruction.

We first wish to assure you that instructional hours will be aligned and consistent to ensure equitable instruction for all students regardless of which model was selected. In both plans, teachers will use the same pacing to introduce new learning. Students will receive instruction in literacy, numeracy, science, social studies and specials (art, music and PE) Tuesday-Friday.  On Mondays, teachers in both models will engage in collaborative planning and will provide small-group interventions, when needed. Special education services and supports including direct instruction, related services, and accommodations, will be provided through both models.

Next, we recognize that Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), may need to be revised to reflect student needs in both the hybrid and full-time distance models. Our goal is to implement IEPs to the fullest extent possible. We are working to begin scheduling IEP meetings with families this summer.

Finally, the school district recognizes that the unique learning needs of students with disabilities may require a reconsideration of the model selection.

Special Education Supports and Services in the Hybrid In-Person/Distance Learning Model
The hybrid in-person/distance-learning model delivers in-person instruction in APS schools, with physical distancing and health and safety measures in place to protect students and staff, per CDC and VDH guidelines. In this model, students will attend school in-person on two consecutive days each week, and engage in self-directed, asynchronous (independent) distance learning on the other three days*. Face coverings/masks are required for students and staff while at school/work unless medically exempt. The graphic below illustrates the model.

graphic representation of hybrid instruction model



In the hybrid model, elementary students focus on literacy, numeracy, Social Studies, Science, specials (Art, Music, PE). Middle & high school students would participate in courses which they selected in early spring via block schedule.

  • Students will engage in assignments and activities that explore new content on both in-school and distance learning days.
  • New content and all courses required by Virginia standards of learning will be offered.
  • General classroom instruction will feature whole group, small group, and individual support at all grade levels.
  • Additional instruction will be provided to English Learners as required.
  • Social-Emotional Learning will be provided weekly for all grades.
  • Special education services will be provided both in person and virtually to meet IEP hours to every extent possible.

In-Person Days:
 During the in-person sessions, there will be a continuum of special education services to deliver instruction in both general education settings and special education settings. This may include co-teaching, small group instruction, and/or instruction in special education settings as indicated on IEPs.  Special education accommodations will be provided as outlined in IEPs.

Distance Learning Days:
 Distance learning will complement in-school instruction with dynamic learning activities that can be completed independently*, using online curriculum resources and instructional tasks assigned by teachers. Distance learning activities include:

    • Small group work
    • Video introduction of new content
    • Independent practice; assessment of proficiency
    • Continued purposeful interaction with peers
    • Thoughtful engagement with curriculum
    • Access help during intervention period
    • Engagement in teacher-supported extensions
    • Opportunities to review previously taught material to remediate or strengthen understanding and/or skills

*We recognize that some students with disabilities may require supports and services to access learning activities during distance learning days. IEP teams will address how the needs of students can be met during the hybrid model’s distance learning days. Examples of direct/synchronous virtual services on distance learning days in the hybrid model may include virtual instruction sessions to address IEP goals, pre-teaching/reteaching content, and/or providing support for executive functioning and work completion needs.

Special education accommodations will be provided as outlined in IEPs.

Special Education Supports and Services in the Full-Time Distance Model

In this model, students in all grade levels would engage in both online, synchronous and asynchronous learning 4 days per week, Tuesday through Friday. Mondays would give teachers time for planning and also for small-group interventions conducted synchronously, as necessary. All students will participate in independent/asynchronous learning on Monday.

Distance learning model graphic




New instructional content will be offered to all students, attendance will be required, and student work will be graded. Middle and high school students will participate in courses which they selected in early spring. At the high school level, APS expects to be able to enroll students in the majority of APS core and elective courses. It is important to note that there are some limitations based on student interest and our ability to provide appropriate staffing for each course.

While APS will do everything possible to offer Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) and Dual Enrollment (DE) classes virtually, these classes are not guaranteed and will depend on many factors including the number of students who opt for the distance model. Some specialized programs and course offerings may not be supported, such as those with significant lab or in-person participation requirements, and certain career and technical education (CTE) courses. Students may choose to take courses not offered through APS via an outside online provider like Virtual Virginia.

Students will receive weekly Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) lessons.

Full-time distance learning is available for students in high-risk health categories or who are not comfortable returning to school in-person. As indicated on students’ IEPs, special education services will be delivered virtually through the full-distance model, and will include a continuum of services including instruction in both general education settings and special education settings such as co-teaching, small group instruction, and/or instruction in special education settings as indicated on IEPs. For example, if a student’s IEP indicated support provided in general education for mathematics, during the virtual math block a special education staff member might co-teach the session along with the general education teacher, or might work in a smaller virtual break-out room for part of the class to support a student with an IEP. If a student’s IEP indicates that mathematics instruction will be delivered in a special education setting, then the student would receive mathematics instruction provided by a special educator in a smaller virtual group setting. Below are a few examples of varying models of instructional service delivery. (Based on IEPs, some students might participate in a variety of models – for example, resource support for English/Language Arts and self-contained mathematics).

Special education accommodations will be provided as outlined in IEPs.

Special education support in general education virtual classes
A special education teacher and or staff member under the guidance of a special education teacher would provide supports/services such as:

  • Reviewing online content before students engage with it
  • Pre-teaching content
  • Re-teaching content
  • Small group instruction within the general education virtual classroom
  • Providing instruction/support for executive functioning skills (i.e. organizing material, creating outlines, breaking down assignments, check-in with students to monitor work completion)

 Self-contained classes/specialized programs (i.e. Shriver, MIPA, FLS)

  • Small-group instruction by certified teachers
  • Instructional Studies/Executive functioning addressed by teacher
  • Transition to Post-Secondary
  • Transition Coordinators will continue outreach to 8th-12th graders
    • Planning for a spectrum of post-secondary experiences
    • Vocational skills can be addressed by tasks done from home or programs such as TeachTown

View Sample Elementary Hybrid and Full-Time Distance Model Schedules
View Sample Middle School Hybrid and Full-Time Distance Model Schedules
View Sample High School Hybrid and Full-Time Distance Model Schedules

Considerations for IEP Teams:

  • Do service hours need to be adjusted to reflect the hybrid/full distance learning model weekly schedule?
  • Do any related services need to be adjusted?
  • Do additional accommodations need to be added for distance learning?
  • Do any goals need to be revised to reflect current student needs and instructional models?
    • For example: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Behavior goals may be written to reflect a student application of skills with peers; however, if they are in a full distance learning model or only with peers face to face two days a week, the goal may need to be revised to reflect what is realistic to accomplish during this school year.

IEP Teams may be able to make minor adjustments to IEPs using an IEP addendum.

Role of Special Education Assistants:
All special education assistants will have devices and will be expected to support students under the direction of a special education teacher. This can include but is not limited to:

  • Check-ins
  • Support for work completion and executive functioning needs
  • Social emotional support
  • Accommodations

As plans evolve, we look forward to closely collaborating with the special education community, and appreciate your engagement as we plan to address the needs of all learners. The Parent Resource Center staff is available throughout the summer, and can be reached at 703.228.7239 or