For each student with an IEP, the state recommends IEP teams create a contingency learning plan to explain the special education and related services the district will provide during time away from school. This plan is individualized, based on the current IEP, and makes sure the student can access the education being offered by their district. Districts must develop the plan in collaboration and in agreement with parents because parents are part of the IEP Team. Contingency learning plans may need to include in-person services based on student need.
A contingency learning plan is a proactive way for districts to provide a FAPE for students with disabilities and for parents and IEP teams to think about how the district will meet the child needs should the district move to virtual learning. There is no other method in Michigan to lay out how services/instruction will be provided to a student with an IEP during virtual instruction other than the contingency learning plan.
The contingency learning plan should be referenced in the IEP in the supplementary aids and services section (similar to referencing a behavior plan), and developed outside of the IEP collaboratively with parents, and in accordance with the child’s IEP. The contingency learning plan is implemented in tandem with the IEP and can be changed with parent input, but without needing to have a full IEP team meeting. If the contingency learning plan is not followed, that could be a denial of FAPE.
Parents should document conversations. FAPE has to be provided to the student and if the parent feels that there is a denial of FAPE, there are dispute resolution strategies that can help IEP teams resolve conflicts.
- Contingency learning plan identifies the child’s needs, taking into consideration parent concerns around virtual learning.
- The contingency learning plan explains what events will trigger the implementation of the contingency learning plan. Possible triggering events may include:
- The district is moved to virtual instruction by executive order or community decision
- The district chooses a virtual mode of instruction
- A parent chooses to keep the child home due to health and safety issues
- Child has illness due to COVID-19
- Household member is quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19
- Is the need for individual instruction written into the IEP? Sometimes resource room services are provided in small groups, so if individual services are needed, it has to be documented in the IEP.
- Does the child need individual adult support for learning/attention, etc.. This should also be written into the IEP if it is needed (if individual support provided to the student in person, this might be listed as an individual aide or individual adult support). These points will direct the conversation to what the child needs and what strategies are needed to meet the child’s needs for hand on services (rather than starting the conversation talking about specific services).
- If the district is doing virtual instruction and the child needs individual support, the conversation between the parent and IEP team should be about what the child needs to be engaged and successful with the virtual learning and what strategies will be in place to meet the child’s needs for hands on services. The interventions provided during virtual instruction may look different than the in person services identified in the IEP.
- Will some services/ instruction be in person if district is doing virtual learning?
As communities continue to work through COVID-19 outbreaks and the complications that the outbreaks bring to educating all students, the Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education (MDE OSE) reminds local education agencies, both traditional public school districts and public school academies, and ISDs of their continuous obligations under IDEA to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with IEPs.