To our valued families,
We understand that the recent public health mandated district closure has been extremely challenging for all families and particularly complex for families of students with disabilities. We appreciate your understanding, collaboration and support as we navigate this difficult time as a school community. Consistent with federal and state guidelines, while our school district is closed during this health crisis, we have developed a district website which offers enrichment resources and instructional supports for all general and special education students. It can be found here (https://www.southhadleyschools.org/Page/7144). Given the most recent advisory from Russell Johnston, Senior Associate Commissioner and State Director of Special Education, we are now shifting toward remote learning. While the safety of students, families and staff is paramount during this challenging time, we realize we will not be able to provide educational services in the same manner as before the school closure. While this will undoubtedly be a challenge at best, South Hadley Public Schools is committed to working with our students, families and caregivers to navigate this unprecedented situation.
Please know we are doing the best we can under the circumstances to ensure students have equitable access to our website resources. We appreciate your patience, understanding, and partnership in this process. We will continue to work hard to help families keep students engaged in practice of previously learned skills and materials and to make them as accessible as feasible under the circumstances. Special education staff are happy to connect with you on ideas about how to make the activities more accessible for your individual child. Teachers and providers are also available for check-ins and may answer questions about the materials and resources provided, as well.
At present, the District is focusing on developing Remote Learning Plans for our Special Education students and we began gearing up for a longer-term closure by having a Chromebook Drive-Up during our lunch distribution for all of our students from grade 2 up. If you have internet access but your child does not have access to a Chromebook, please contact me and we will have on available for you. As a next step, South Hadley Staff have been working this week to develop an overview of the Remote Learning Plan that will be put in place the week of April 6. Please see Commissioner Riley’s letter to families which is can be accessed here and on the Student Services website. Please check the website weekly for updates. We have also begun to explore our capacity to hold remote IEP meetings where appropriate, but at the moment, we feel it is more important to focus on providing learning opportunities to our students. District ETL’s are currently assessing virtual IEP meeting options and we will stay in communication with you to provide updates. While this option may not be feasible in all circumstances, we will certainly do our very best to accommodate as many as we can during the school closure.
I am sending you heartfelt compassion given this crisis we are in. First and foremost, I am genuinely concerned for your safety and wellbeing. It is not lost on me that this situation is very unsettling for our most vulnerable students and their families and caregivers. The best I can do is offer to you my sincere commitment to getting through this together. Compassion, empathy, respect, and a commitment to collaboration will serve us well to that end. Please take care of one another, as this too shall pass. In the meantime, we are with you.
Thank you for reading this.
A message from South Hadley Public School's
Office of Student Services regarding the COVID-19 outbreak
We understand that the recent public health mandated district closures have been extremely challenging for all families and particularly complex for families of students with disabilities. We appreciate your collaboration and support as we navigate this difficult time as a school community. Consistent with federal and state guidelines, while our school district is closed during this ongoing public health emergency we are not providing any educational services, including special education services, to any students during this period of school closure. The district has carefully weighed the significant safety and equity concerns and has decided that all services including home services, evaluations, and tutoring must remain closed.
We are in unprecedented times and doing the best we can under the circumstances to ensure students have equal access to enrichment resources. SHPS is providing optional enrichment activities for all students that can be found here on the district website. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this process. The resources sent home to students are for enrichment only and not intended to replicate learning and modifications in a school day. They are not required and will not be counted or graded by the district. We are doing our best to help families keep students engaged in practice of previously learned skills and materials and to make them as accessible as feasible under the circumstances. The combination of modified materials and alternative enrichment resources that special educators have been adding to the site ensures that all students have equal access to enrichment activities during this difficult time. Special education staff are happy to connect with you on ideas about how to make the activities more accessible for your individual child. Teachers and providers are also available for check-ins and may answer questions about the materials and resources provided, but will not be providing any direction instruction.
At present the District is not holding IEP meetings during the school closure. We will be reassessing this possibility as we move through the school closure period. Currently we do not have the necessary technology, procedures, and protocols in place to do this equitably and maintain our compliance and confidentiality requirements. We will reach out to reschedule your meeting when we have a better sense of our return date.
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This district office coordinates services for students who have IEPs, speak English as their non-native language, or who require services due to homelessness. This office also assists with transportation needs of students riding special transportation vehicles.
The purpose of special education is to allow a student to successfully develop his or her individual educational potential. Special Education is intended to serve students with disabilities so that such students are able to have the same full educational opportunities as their non-disabled peers.
Special education services are specifically designed instruction and related services that are necessary to allow the student to access the general curriculum. The instruction is designed to meet the unique needs of each individual.
Children receiving special education services may have a disability in any of the following areas: autism, health, physical, developmental, sensory, intellectual, neurological, emotional, speech and communication, or specific learning issues.
The requirements regarding special education are based on state and federal law. The relevant laws are as follows:
State Law: The State special education law, popularly known as "Chapter 766" is contained in the Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) at Chapter 71B. The regulations implementing the statute are found in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (CMR) at 603 CMR, Section 28.00.
Federal Law: The federal special education law is known as "IDEA" (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.) It is contained in the United States Code at 20 USC Sec. 1400. The implementing regulations for IDEA can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Chapter 34, Section 300. For additional information on Chapter 766 and IDEA go to www.doe.mass.edu/sped/laws.html.
"The role of special education is to minimize the impact of the disability and to maximize the opportunities for children with disabilities to participate in general education in their natural community." Thomas Hehir, New Directions in Special Education: Eliminating Ableism in Policy and Practice