The only thing certain about the 2021 back-to-school season is that so many things remain uncertain. Although we know that school districts have been mandated to open, we are all anticipating that there will be interruptions to our children’s education as Covid continues to mutate and spread. The New Jersey Department of Education recently addressed this concern, and issued “guidance” [insert link]. Unfortunately, it failed to provide any clear standards for districts to follow, or set expectations for parents. Specifically, this memo sates: “where an individual student, group of students, or entire class(es) are excluded from school due to meeting the NJDOH’s COVID-19 exclusion criteria, [school districts] are strongly encouraged to immediately provide virtual or remote instruction to those students in a manner commensurate with in person instruction.”
For us, this raises multiple questions: Are school districts only “strongly encouraged” to provide remote instruction when a student has contracted or been exposed to Covid? What if attending school in person will pose health risks to a student, or a student’s family member? What if a child cannot or will not wear a mask? What if a child is hearing impaired or has an auditory processing disorder that is impacted by an educator wearing a mask? Will a child’s 504 Plan or IEP have to be amended to include virtual instruction, just in case?
Many students were unable to learn virtually, and may require extra services/supports in the event remote instruction is resumed. We strongly encourage all of our clients to write out their concerns, and think of solutions that will address them. Then, request an IEP or 504 team meeting to discuss them. It is best for everyone to get ahead of these potential problems, rather than try to recover from lost education and services later.