Dear Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers-
First, I want to thank all of you for your incredible patience, your helpful suggestions and your spirit of collaboration as we tackle our new reality. In my previous note, I mentioned that the details of providing special education during a school closure would likely evolve. Over the weekend, the US Department of Education released this guidance to school districts. On Wednesday, Governor Baker and Commissioner Riley extended the school closure through May 3rd. And on Thursday, the MA Dept of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Associate Commissioner for Special Education provided additional guidance for us. With this longer closure and revised guidance, I wanted to update you on where things stand with regard to special education services and meetings.
As of now, all of our special educators are providing families and students with resources and suggestions for activities that can be done at home. Many are sharing videos and connecting with individual students and families via email, phone, and virtual meetups. I know that you are dealing as best you can with your new reality of working from home, keeping your children busy (and fed!) and worrying about health and safety issues on top of that. Many of you have expressed the desire for more formal IEP services and meetings and the special education administrative team is working hard to define what that may look like. Given our number one priority of protecting the health and safety of students, educators, and service providers, we will not be in school and will not be in your homes. As a result, in this new, remote environment, the idea of a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) will be significantly altered. In these circumstances, services we are able to deliver will be provided quite differently than they are when school is operational. Many modifications and adjusted services can be effectively provided remotely; some, however, may be unnecessary in a remote environment or simply impractical and too difficult to implement. Ongoing communication between team members and families will be the best way to collaboratively figure out what you need and what we can provide.
All districts, across the Commonwealth and the country are wrestling with these questions as we consider privacy and confidentiality issues and, given the updated length of this closure, we begin ramping up from an in-person to a remote environment. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- This remote environment is new to everyone so there will be bumps
- Services we provide during this school closure will be temporary for the duration of the closure and will not change your student’s IEP or impact any “stay put” rights
- Any virtual ‘live’ groups/meetings will be viewable by all households so privacy and confidentiality cannot be ensured; you will need to decide what you are comfortable with
- Educators and providers have limited materials at home with them and are taking care of their own families
- Families need to be mindful not to record any virtual ‘live’ interactions without the knowledge of all parties
As Superintendent Lussier relayed in his message today, WPS is working to complete version 2.0 of our remote learning model in the coming week, which we will then begin to roll out to the community. I will also be meeting with our SEPAC chairs next week to brainstorm ways we can continue to support each other in the coming weeks. If you have suggestions please share them with me. Thank you again for your patience and understanding, and please stay safe and healthy!
Director of Student Services
Wellesley Public Schools