August 6, 2020

Good evening! We hope that each of you and your families have been keeping well and enjoying the summer. We know that many families (along with staff) have been thinking intently about what school will look like in the fall, and, of course, there are many questions. At the Parent Resource Center, we’ve had the great privilege of seeing many successful initiatives improve outcomes for students when staff and families collaborate. We know our community of amazing parents, colleagues and students will bring their talents and dedication to this new academic year, and we look forward to supporting your efforts.

Our Office of Special Education (OSE) administrators have been working hard to build capacity to support the needs of all of our learners as we enter school in a virtual model. To ensure that parents have the information they need to navigate this process and partner with school staff as members of their children’s educational teams, our administrators have met with parent leaders in our community, and have begun compiling responses to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) related to re-opening questions for students who receive special education services and supports. These responses will be shared via School Talk, and posted on a new Special Education Re-Opening FAQs page on the OSE and PRC’s websites.

Office of Special Education
Re-Opening and Special Education: Frequently Asked Questions

Can you provide an update on the use of virtual assessments to help teams determine if a student has a disability?

The Office of Special Education (OSE) is working with staff to create a plan to conduct virtual assessments in many areas. We hope to have a finalized plan before school starts, train staff, and then begin to virtually assess students. Schools will work with families to schedule testing sessions. More information on virtual assessments will be forthcoming in late August or early September.

Some parents are worried about special education services “disappearing” if Individualized Education Programs (IEPs)  are adjusted for distance learning. Can services be reinstated when the normal 30-hour instructional week resumes?

Currently APS has announced a distance learning model for all students that includes 24 instructional hours. Schools are reviewing IEPs and reaching out to families to determine together if adjustments need to be made for students to access distance learning and make meaningful progress on their IEP goals, and to align IEPs with the 24 instructional hour model. These meetings should not be interpreted as a means to reduce services, but as a forum and opportunity to determine what students needs are during this instructional model.

As APS returns to the face-to-face, 30-hour instructional model, IEP teams will meet again to similarly make needed adjustments together related to student needs in the 30 hour instructional model. As always, parent input is considered and documented as part of the IEP, and if adjustments are made, the required Prior Written Notice (PWN) form can be used to document why adjustments were made for the current instructional model.

Considerations for IEP Teams may include:

IEP Goals: Do any goals need to be revised to reflect current student needs and instructional models? For example: Social Emotional Learning and Behavior goals may be written to reflect a student’s 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.

Do accommodations need to be adjusted to facilitate distance learning? This might include:

      • Extended Time
      • Assignments chunks and prioritized
      • Frequent check-ins from staff to assist with work completion
      • Breaks
      • Adjusted schedule

Related Services: Do any related services need to be adjusted to reflect what the student can access virtually?

How will the Parent Resource Center (PRC) be helping families during the coming year?

The PRC Coordinators will continue to offer virtual services and supports, and will:

    • Be available for individual parent consultations via phone and videoconferencing
    • Offer online parent learning opportunities
    • Continue to expand the PRC’s collection of digital tools and resources for parents
    • Share information, news and updates through weekly School Talk messages
    • Maintain and disseminate information on community supports for families such as webinars, meetings, resources, community services and tools
    • Collaborate with the Office of Special Education and the Department of Teaching and Learning to provide information, communication and supports to families
    • Participate in and support the Arlington Special Education Advisory Committee and Arlington SEPTA
    • With Arlington SEPTA, co-sponsor the Special Education Parent Liaisons program
    • Collaborate with the Office of Family Engagement, the Arlington Family Engagement Network, Virginia’s Special Education Family Engagement Network, and other community partners in strengthening family engagement initiatives within APS and the Arlington community
    • Participate in the Arlington Early Intervention Interagency Coordinating Council to support families of infants and toddlers ages zero to three
    • Participate in and collaborate with APS’ Transition Team to support families of students preparing for transitions from APS

The PRC Coordinators look forward to collaborating with staff and colleagues during the upcoming year, and can be reached at 703.228.7239 and/or

We look forward to continuing to share additional responses to FAQs in the coming weeks.