School Closure in a Crisis and Special Education Services

Schools are closed, and your child is not receiving the special education services that are supposed to be in place, what can you do? The type of mass school closures such as the ones from the COVID-19 virus were not contemplated in the laws of the Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If it wasn’t contemplated or a part of the law where does that leave your child and their education?

To help give us some clarity in these uncharted times the Department of Education has published a Question and Answer discussing specifically what the schools need to do with regards to providing education services to students with special education services.

The big question of “do the schools need to continue to provide your child education services” has been answered, but it may not be the answer you are hoping for. The schools are only require to provide your child services if they are also providing educational opportunities to the general student population. If the school is providing educational opportunities to the general population, then the school must ensure that your child has equal access to the same opportunities, and that your child receives to the greatest extent possible all services under their IEP or 504.

If the school is not providing services to the general student population, then there is one avenue that you can take to make up for the time that your child has not been in school. The IEP team can make an individualized determination for compensatory services for your child. Compensatory services more of than not are in the form of tutoring. If and when they are determined to be appropriate for you child, a specific number of hours for the services will be calculated. This should closely approximate the number of hours of education that they missed out on. For example, if they missed two full weeks of school due to a closure they should be able to receive approximately sixty hours of compensatory services.

While an hour to hour formula for compensatory services is common, it is also possible that the school could determine what the correct amount of services is in order to make your child’s education “whole” and use that metric.

Possible compensatory services could include: summer services in addition to ESY, reimbursement if you paid for outside tutoring or programs while your child was out of school, additional related services in the IEP, or tutoring at the schools expense. As previously mentioned the most common form is the tutoring because it is flexible and provides your child the one on one education that is known to be very effective.

If you have questions about special education, or advocating for your child’s educational needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at or 804-423-1382.