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Special Education Distance Learning Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Special Education Distance Learning Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The MPS Special Education Department is committed to answering questions and providing information for concerns parents / caregivers might have duing the various phases of safe learning. If you have any additional questions please don't hesistate to reach out to your student's case manager, principal or even reach out to the department directly by calling (612) 668-5444

Are special kids going to be reprimanded if they are not able to participate the required amount of time for school?

Whether in a virtual or in-person instructional setting, it is expected that special education staff will provide each student with positive behavioral supports, as well as explicitly teaching the skills needed for students to positively engage in virtual instruction. IEP teams can work with families to develop a plan for student engagement that can be documented in the student’s IEP.

So will there be classroom time when the whole class should be online at the same time?

General education classes will have some portion of whole class instruction. Special education instruction and group size will be determined based on student need.  

For kids in Mpls Kids, will there be SEAs available on-site to help kids with distant learning?

For students who are attending essential worker provided child care, the IEP team will determine what supports will be provided virtually and in-person during child care to facilitate distance learning.

Will the schedule be modified so that special needs kids are not participating every day?

Student schedules and any modifications to schedules can be determined by the student’s IEP team, a team that families are a vital member. The IEP team can determine if a student needs an altered school day and document what that altered school day would look like for each student.

Have the teachers been trained over the summer to actually use these technologies and live software?

Teachers have returned to their positions on August 25th. \Between August 25th and the beginning of the school year, teachers will have had a full menu of professional development, including training on the use of technology and software.Many of these trainings will be recorded and available to teachers on demand for their reference. 

Will there be a morning meeting and then my student is on their own?

All elementary students will be able to participate in a morning meeting. The rest of their daily schedule will be both created in collaboration with your family and a schedule will be provided to you. 

What date can we contact our case manager to start getting our individual answers?

MPS teachers returned to their virtual classrooms August 25th and are available for calls between their professional development and preparations for their 2020-21 school year.

What about compensatory services for those that weren’t received last spring?

If a family member feels that their student did not receive the service on their student’s Individual Distance Learning Plan, they should contact their case manager or the school principal.

My child has a DAPE swimming goal on her IEP and swims once a week at her middle school. How will that service be met during distance learning?

DAPE teachers would be available to provide indirect service for swimming goals during distance learning.  Direct services for swimming goals would resume per a student’s IEP whe services return to in-person.

How can the teacher keep my child interested and engaged in his distance learning?

Teachers know your student and have been engaging in professional development during the first two weeks of school on this important topic.  Teachers also have access to their classrooms, which will allow them greater access to more materials and ones that are familiar to your student.  Our special education department has also created resources for teachers to increase engagement, as well as provide calming activities for students that can be overstimulated during distance learning.  We also realize that families know their students best and we want you to share what has been working and not working during distance learning with your team.  School and family partnerships will continue to be the key to distance learning success. 

How much help can I have after hours?

We are working with community partners that can assist families with homework and technology assistance. Your school will have more information about the specific community partners they work with during the school year.  Coming soon, you can also find information about community supports here

What is the time expectation for students to be logged in?

Each student’s team made up of general education, special education, and related services staff will develop an individualized schedule for your student. Your input will also be critical in the development of that schedule. 

What is the plan for high needs students, who have parents who work full-time and cannot help their student during distance learning, and do not have child care who can help?

This case scenario is one of the most challenging issues of distance learning. Please work with your student’s IEP team to create a distance learning plan that can address these needs to the greatest extent possible. While we cannot provide in-person services, having the appropriate technology in place can be an appropriate place to start. We will also work with your family to make sure that we have assessed how assistive technology might help. Our department is also working with our special education assistants on how they can best be utilized for multi-sensory experiences, cause and effect instruction and function communication strategies. 

Are schools using a standard platform to present material?

MPS is not using a standard platform to present materials. Schools are using SeeSaw K-2 with the option of using the platform K-5. Third grade (5th) - 12th grade classrooms are using Google Classroom.  Some Citywide ASD/DCD classroom teachers (grades 5-Transition+)  have worked with Principals and Directors to access SeeSaw as their platform.

What is the plan for kids, like mine, who have more behavioral issues and who struggle with things like severe ADHD and need more 1:1 assistance to simply stay focused on work?

It is up to the IEP team to develop goals and supports such as SEA time online to increase the student’s endurance and duration in their ability to focus. The schedule for the student break down  learning into short timeframes, have movement and calming breaks throughout the school day, provide accommodations and modifications as well as materials formatted to meet the educational needs in distance learning.

Can we pursue the IEP with a private evaluation?

MPS can factor data from a private evaluation into an initial evaluation from MPS, but MPS cannot solely use the private evaluation to qualify the student for special education services.

Is the case manager the special education teacher?

The case manager is typically the staff member who spends the most time with your student.  You can find out who your student’s case manager is on the front page of the IEP or by calling your student’s school.

Is there a plan for Transition Plus?

Transition Plus will have live teacher-led virtual, interactive instruction on Mondays and Wednesdays and student-led virtual interactive instruction (with staff present). Students working with Team 1 advisors will be accessing the Seesaw platform and the rest of the student body will be accessing classes through Google Classroom.There will continue to be student and staff led groups with enrichment being offered on Fridays. Please see our website for more information: https://transplus.mpls.k12.mn.us/

When can we expect absolute and concrete plans, and from whom, about how our kids will be supported and ensured the education they are entitled to this fall?

Your student’s general and special education team are the best source of those plans.  Teachers return back to school on August 25th.

What are the different phases?
Will there be live instruction?

Yes, every student will have live interaction as part of their instructional day.

Are students with special needs going to be the first to return back to school if schools are to be reopened?

It has not been determined at this time which students would return first in a hybrid model.

Can parents still call an IEP meeting anytime they like if things are not working?

Yes, families can reach out to their student’s case manager or the school social worker to have an IEP meeting scheduled. 

If the amended IEP designates a child needs physical support to participate in DL and parents need to hire a support person out-of-pocket due to MA ineligibility, will the district pay?

Additional adult assistance can be part of a student’s in-person IEP to help with supports like personal care, engagement, and specialized support.  During the first weeks of September, your student’s case manager will reach out to discuss what additions to the IEP are needed for distance learning.  Additional adult assistance can continue to be provided in some cases in distance learning for engagement, working with families on personal care schedules, etc.  While in distance learning, the  District will be unable to provide services in-person or fund that support for families.

Can case managers make adjustments to setting level of distance learning if it is proving to be too difficult?

A student’s federal setting is determined by the student’s IEP team.  While a case manager is unable to make this decision in isolation of the IEP team, a family member should reach out to them to set up an IEP meeting to discuss the possibility.

Will special needs children still have to follow the 9-3/M-F weekly school schedule?

Each student will be engaged in a full day of instruction that will follow their typical school bell time.  If a family feels that their student is unable to engage in a full day schedule, they can reach out to their IEP to discuss the possibility of an altered school day. 

ForTier 1 essential workers, will there be services available for special needs children?

Child care services for Tier 1 essential workers are being offered by Minneapolis Kids.  Information regarding eligibility can be found here.

What will be the earliest time that SPED kids will be back in buildings?

The earliest time that any MPS student could be back in a building starts at Phase 3 in the Phases to Safe Learning.  Students will be selected to return to buildings for targeted supports. Guidance for  identification factors for Phase 3 are currently being worked on by Senior leaders and the Special Education Department.

When you say face-to-face assessments are not allowed, who is saying they aren't? MDE? MPS?

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) sets eligibility requirements for determining if a student has a disability. Those requirements oftentimes require a standardized score to determine that eligibility. The company that produces each assessment determines under what conditions the test is valid and the results can be used. 

How can schools open in any capacity when they cannot ensure all students can and do receive due process to receive support required to receive fair and equitable education?

It continues to be our obligation and the mission of our work to provide special education services to students through this challenging time.  We remain committed to starting our year by meeting with each family to determine what those services should look like based whether MPS educational services are in-person or through distance learning.

Why don’t they do assessments via video?

Many of the assessments that we are able to do with students can be performed over video.  Other assessments are only valid and meet standardization requirements if done in-person.  This becomes especially important when we are determining if a student meets criteria for initial eligibility as required by the State of Minnesota.

Will distance learning impact LRE for students who previously received home and community based services? Could a classroom placement be deemed less restrictive because of the nature of accessing educ

Distance learning can impact the least restrictive environment for a student. This will be one of the parts of the IEP that will need to be discussed when staff and families connect this fall to review the IEP.


It is possible that engaging in a classroom experience virtually could be less restrictive depending on what skills might make being part of the class community challenging for the student. 

Can you please describe plans for re-evaluations that were not completed?

The plan is for all parts of a re-evaluation that can be completed virtually to be finished as soon as possible this fall. At that time it may be possible to determine a student’s “continuing need” even if the face-to-face assessment cannot be completed.  If that is the case, the final evaluation report can be issued and the team can then decide if the face-to face will be needed once such testing is allowed. 


If the face-to-face testing is needed to determine continuing need, plans will be made to finish the re-evaluation during Phase 3 of the MPS Phases to Safe Learning, though timing for Phase 3 is not yet known..

What will “push-in support” look like for kids that have that? How do you push in when there’s no class? And how will teachers accommodate for students that aren’t at grade level?

Teachers and Special Education Assistants can support students in general education classes in a variety of ways.  Some examples include:

  • Co-teaching certain parts of the lesson

  • Pre-teaching or reinforcing concepts

  • Making modifications to the lesson or assignments

  • Meeting student in a google hangout to instruct part of the lesson

  • Provide behavior support to encourage engagement

To provide push in services, they would need to be a general education class identified through the IEP.  


Some examples for how a teacher accommodates students that are not grade-level include:

  • Provide an alternative text or symbols

  • Work on an IEP goal or alternative standard

  • Provide a visual organizer or an alternative method of organization of information

Are parents allowed to request an earlier amendment to IEPs?

Yes, a parent can request an IEP meeting at any time. The request can be made to your student’s case manager or school social worker. 

Will every IEP be amended for distance learning services? What are the distance learning services being offered?

Most student IEPs will need to be amended for distance learning. This will allow the IEP to reflect both in-person and distance learning services and reduce the number of meetings that might need to take place throughout the year. 


Distance learning services will be individualized based on each student’s need and reflect what is possible in a distance learning model.  Your input will be critical as the team has this discussion.

Will there be a plan for a hybrid model as well?

Yes, we are already working on a plan of what a hybrid model might look like as we move through the school year. While we continue to work on the details, all updated information for families can be found here throughout the year.

What would we do if an iLDP wasn't in place?

Please reach out to your student’s case manager and they should be able to send you a copy.  It could be that a different term was used back in Spring.  If you need any further assistance, please reach out to your school principal.

Do we know what schools have services available and what timing on that would look like?

All schools will continue to have special education services provided virtually. School will start on September 8th for Grades 1 through Transition Plus.  PreK and kindergarten start on September 10th.

What processes will be in place for IEP evaluations to continue?

Special education re-evaluations and parts of initial evaluations can, for the most part, be done virtually. We continue to investigate new types of assessments that are standardized to be done virtually.  For those parts of an evaluation that must be done face to face, we hope to facilitate them during Phase 3 of our 5 Phases to Safe Learning, though timing for Phase 3 is currently unknown.

Where will the accountability for this co-teaching fall?

Your student’s principal is the instructional leader for all students in the school. If you have questions or concerns that cannot be resolved with the principals or at the school level, Directors of Special Education( through the Special Education Department) can be contacted at 612-668-5446.

How will access to general education work when students need significant modifications to participate?

General education and special education teachers will have collaboration time to plan lessons and any modifications that a student might need to successfully participate in the general education class. A student’s IEP team will determine how many and the type of general education classes are appropriate for each student.

PLEASE, find a way for parents to lock or have control of the devices.

We are specifically looking at control-of-device issues and will update as we have more information from the vendor. We currently have these technology resources developed for students and families to better understand use of your tools: Technology Support for Students and Families

If we’re able to have our younger children in private in-person preschool/daycare will teachers and SEAs be available to coach their in-person teacher on goals/skills they’re working on at all?

It could be possible depending on the type of service a student has on their IEP.  This would be a great question to discuss when your case manager reaches out to review your student’s IEP/IFSP.

Can you tell us if school will be asynchronous again?

School will be a combination of live and on-demand interactive instructional time. It will include a blend of teacher-facilitated instruction, independent or small group learning, and non-screen time.

Where do we pick up a device?

Device pickup will take place at your student’s school. Please contact your student’s school to let them know that your student needs a device. They will let you know when to come pick the device up at the school.