In our June 9 blog post, we wrote about Governor Cuomo's executive order stating that necessary, in-person special education instruction may be provided in New York State this summer. Last week, the New York City Department of Education announced that it would not offer in-person instruction for students with disabilities this summer, despite the Governor's order. Therefore, it looks like remote instruction will continue over the summer.
Although I do not know exactly what school in the fall will look like, there are a few things I can say confidently. When in-person school does re-open, it likely will look different than it ever did in the past. It could include various measures including staggered schedules, face coverings, and social distancing within classrooms. Based on what our firm has seen so far, some parents are going to take a wait-and-see approach, while others are going to view their current circumstances as an opportunity.
Here are three examples:
Some parents who are feeling uncertain are not re-enrolling their children in private special education schools right now. The result: coveted spots at some of NYC's best private special education schools, which typically have waiting lists, may actually have openings. New families who are ready to act swiftly and commit to the new school year may be able to ensure their child's enrollment there when in-person schooling resumes.
Some parents who are feeling uncertain are not pursuing evaluations to identify their child's needs and determine an appropriate program. The result: families who are pursuing evaluations are finding that they are able to get appointments without the typical months-long wait list. They will be able to secure evaluations on an expedited basis and will be prepared for applying to schools and justifying their child's placement to their school districts. Those who are not pursuing evaluations now will be dismayed when the masses decide to pursue them later and appointments become scarce again.
Some parents who are feeling uncertain are not engaging legal services. The result: those who are engaging legal services will have the advantage of being able to file their due process complaints early. This will minimize delays resulting from the case backlog at the impartial hearing office due to a shortage of impartial hearing officers, allow for faster adjudication of parents' claims and, if they prevail, result in faster disbursement of funds by the school district.
These are trying times and no one knows for certain how the situation will develop. Don't let that stop you from taking the necessary steps to set your child up for success when in-person instruction does continue.