Welcome back to another school year in Trinity County! As most of our districts are back to school and resuming a normal schedule, there are still so many questions that can pop up. What’s the difference between distance learning and independent study? How does my student get special education services? And what the heck is a “hybrid model” of learning? As we work through these questions together, we appreciate the collaboration and understanding we have seen so far from our school sites and our community. Today, we are going to try and answer one of those questions above … what does special education look like during distance learning?

In the North State, we have seen school closures for many different reasons, from power outages to wildfire to the newest reason, COVID-19. Switching to a distance learning format, whether by a parent’s choice or by decisions made outside of the school setting, can be confusing and seem different from what we are used to. That being said, for students with disabilities, their special education services are still a guarantee, regardless of whether they are learning at home or in the classroom. Those services may look a little different in an at-home setting, but services will not be disrupted because buildings may be closed or a child is learning from home.

All special education students have a distance learning plan. Distance Learning Plans (sometimes called DLPs) outline what special education services a student has, how often they get those services, and how they will receive those services. Given how different our county is from community to community, our special education teams have been hard at work creating online classrooms, virtual therapy, setting up phone meetings, and sending home old-fashioned paper packets (not everything good is online after all). Students always have the option to work in the absence of a computer or steady internet. Much like the individualized education plan (IEP) we are more used to, the distance learning plan outlines the same thing for a temporary school closure of more than 10 days. All of our Trinity County schools have been working hard to set up meetings and get distance learning plans in place to start the school year so our students can be successful no matter where they are learning.

Special education, much like general education, has not stopped because our buildings might be closed or because our parents feel more comfortable with their children staying home. We have many options available to students across the county depending on their needs and their environment. If you ever have questions or feel unsure about what is happening, the best way to get an answer is to check in with your local school site. They have been hard at work all summer making sure our students have what they need and are ready to learn once again. Think of a Distance Learning Plan as a mini IEP or as a roadmap to learning. Welcome back, and I hope this information helps to navigate these unique times.

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