L.A. County Districts Can Now Provide In-Person Assessments
One of the most challenging aspects of distance learning has been losing access to the in-person services and assessments that our schools provided before the pandemic. But this week, Los Angeles County health officials gave K–12 schools the green light to allow small cohorts of students to return to campus for IEP assessments and special day classes. The California Department of Public Health released safety guidelines for these in-person assessments and classes, which districts and campuses must adhere to when they reopen — including maintaining 12 or fewer students and two aides per class.
During our recent live panel on distance learning, legal rights, and FAPE, special education attorney Grace Clark explained what parents can expect from individual districts: “The state law that suspended assessments for a time does not apply anymore . . . Now that there is a green light, [districts] have to do assessments.” She added, “It doesn’t mean schools have to do it in person . . . but I expect them to start bringing in students for assessments because there is such a backlog.” We’ll update you as we learn which districts are confirmed to start providing in-person services, but in the meantime, here’s more of what you should know about this huge development in distance learning.
The district decides whether or not to perform in-person assessments:
- During our panel, Culver City Unified Director of Special Education Dr. Diana Fannon confirmed that it’s always up to the district to make the call on in-person assessments. “We would never force someone to come to in-person assessments if they’re compromised or uncomfortable; it might not be safe for the child and we might not get valid results,” Dr. Fannon said.
- LAUSD may not be among the districts allowing students to return to on-campus special day classes or in-person assessments. On the Friday before Labor Day, Cecily Myart-Cruz, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles union, announced that it opposes opening school campuses. Among their concerns is the fact that LAUSD's coronavirus testing and contact tracing plans have yet to take shape, putting the safety of both teachers and students in jeopardy.
What does access to at-home in-person assessments and services look like?
- Dr. Fannon explained that while many districts do not yet offer their own at-home 1:1 services due to extremely valid safety and liability concerns, some have contracted with non-public agencies (NPAs).
- Attorney Grace Clark said that “if a behavioral aide or instructional aide is necessary for your child’s FAPE, you need that at home.” She added, “[At-home assistance] can’t be done without a huge fight right now, but there’s no reason I can think of that a child who really needs a person with them to access their curriculum shouldn’t be able to have that.”
- Special education advocate Dr. Sarah Pelangka told us that getting insurance to pay for an in-home aide is likewise tricky right now: “I have clients who have hired tutors and they’re continuously getting denied. Most ABA agencies have limited therapists to only going to one home to keep everyone safer, but we also have kids who aren’t able to access the content without that support, so it’s a hard one.”
From the return of in-person assessments to SB 98's positive impact on IEPs, we’ll be keeping you posted on distance learning updates to help you and your child navigate this changing landscape. Stay tuned for a more indepth takeaway from this informative panel of powerhouse advocates and educators as well as a recording of the event!