Special Education in the Pandemic: Update on the Philadelphia Public Schools and Resources for Parents

During this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, our public schools need to show creativity and perseverance to minimize disruptions to learning. This is especially true for the most vulnerable students, including students with special needs, who stand to lose the most from an extended absence from school.

While Philadelphia’s school buildings are now closed indefinitely due to COVID-19, on March 27, 2020, Governor Wolf signed a law requiring schools in Pennsylvania to provide written notice to parents of an individualized plan to ensure a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for each student with special needs. The law also requires every school to make a good faith effort to offer continuity of education using alternative methods while schools are physically closed, and to post their plans for continuity of education online.

As of April 1, 2020, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) has published a first iteration of its continuity of education plan, which is likely to change, as well as guidance on how it plans to comply with the state law and provide education remotely.

What does SDP’s plan for remote education mean for students with special needs?

SDP has detailed its expectations for special education teachers to provide remote lessons, and staff-members are also expected to participate in virtual IEP meetings and to continue writing IEPs and evaluation reports. To help close the gap in digital access, SDP is planning to loan Chromebooks to families without a computer at home. Chromebook distribution is tentatively scheduled for mid-April. SDP is also coordinating with internet service providers to provide free or low-cost WiFi access to facilitate remote learning. Under the current plan, instruction that includes new subject matter and graded assignments will not begin until the week of May 4, 2020.

Further information about SDP’s unfolding plans are being posted here, under the Remote Learning & Teaching tab.

Special education due process hearings will be conducted virtually.

Berney & Sang will continue to post information as we learn more.


In the meantime, we are also aware of the following public resources for parents:

The following resources are also available to parents:

And teachers have access to these resources too:

Parents should also consider contacting the organizations listed on our Helpful Organizations page.