September 8, 2020

MDE In-School and In-Home Service Options

The Minnesota Department of Education has posted a new resource for special education: Q & A: Determining In-School Direct Services and In-Home Direct Services for Students with Disabilities. This document has six questions and answers, which are outlined below:

Question 1: Direct Services in School

The first question asks: Can school district or charter school staff provide students with disabilities direct services in-school for the purpose of supporting the student in accessing educational services when a school district or charter school is implementing the hybrid or distance learning models, or when a parent of a student with a disability chooses a distance learning model?

The MDE’s response references the Special Education Due Process Guidance for the 2020-21 School Year, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) 2020-21 Planning Guide for Schools, the Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year and MDH Guidance for Delivering Direct Student Support Services and states, “The student’s individualized education program (IEP) team, which includes the parent, can determine the amount of in-school direct services the student receives in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE), under the hybrid model, as long as the school district or charter school is in compliance with public health guidance. For school districts and charter schools that are operating under a distance learning model due to public health data, no in-school direct services may be provided. For school districts and charter schools that are operating under a distance learning model, and it is a more restrictive learning model than what is recommended in the Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year, the student’s IEP team, including the parent, can determine the student’s need for some in-school direct services as long as the school can meet the public health guidance.

Question 2: In-Home Special Education Services

The second question asks: Can school district or charter school staff provide students with disabilities direct services in-home for the purpose of supporting the student in accessing educational services when a school district or charter school is implementing the hybrid or distance learning models, or when a parent of a student with a disability chooses a distance learning model?

The MDE’s response indicates district and school staff are not able to deliver in-home direct services under any of the learning models because this can reduce the effectiveness of mitigation strategies. The guidance then states that to support students with disabilities who are in need of in-person direct services, while receiving instruction through hybrid or distance learning models, “A school district or charter school may have a policy to contract with a qualified community provider in order to provide in-home direct services, during the school day, for services identified in a student’s IEP.”

Question 3: Qualified Community Provider

The third question asks: What is a qualified community provider?

The MDE’s responses states,A community provider is qualified to provide in-home direct services for services necessary to support a student with a disability in accessing distance learning, including specialized instruction, if that provider meets applicable requirements for contracted personnel and services in the Special Education Funding GuideSection 12 [UPDATED 9/4/20] and specifically found in Minnesota Rule 3525.1550.

Question 4: Qualification for In-Home Direct Services

The fourth question asks: How is it determined that a student with a disability will receive in-home direct services from a qualified community provider?

The MDE’s response states, “School districts and charter schools may choose whether or not they will contract with qualified community providers to provide in-home direct services to a student with a disability. If a school district or charter school chooses to offer contracted services with qualified community providers, it is up to the student’s IEP team, including the parent, to determine what necessary services the qualified community service provider provides in order to ensure the student receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE). These services should be incorporated into a revision of the student’s IEP. Any in-home direct services provided to a student with a disability by a qualified community provider that are part of the student’s IEP are eligible for special education aid and Minnesota Health Care Programs (MHCP) reimbursement if applicable requirements are met, including waivers and flexibilities for MHCP billing.

School districts and charter schools are not required to contract with qualified community service providers in order to provide in-home direct services to a student with a disability while implementing a hybrid or distance learning model. When a school district and charter school chooses not to contract with a qualified community provider to provide in-home services to a student with a disability, it is up to the student’s IEP team, including the parent, to determine how to otherwise ensure the student receives FAPE while implementing a hybrid or distance learning model.

School districts and charter schools remain responsible for ensuring a student with a disability receives FAPE even if the school district or charter school contract the provision of in-school direct services to a qualified community provider.”

Question 5: Additional Considerations for Qualified Community Providers

The fifth question asks: What are additional considerations a school district and charter school should be aware of when contracting with a qualified community provider to provide in-home direct services to students with disabilities?

The MDE’s response includes a number of factors for consideration:

Question 6: Services in School-Age Care

The final question asks: Can school district or charter school staff provide students with disabilities with direct services in school age care for children of critical workers for the purpose of supporting the student in accessing educational services when a school district or charter school is implementing the hybrid or distance learning models, or when a parent of a student with a disability chooses a distance learning model?

The MDE’s guidance indicates that services can be provided in the school age care for critical care workers if a school district or charter school is in hybrid learning, or is in distance learning but county case rates would indicate they could operate a hybrid model.

The guidance further states, “If a school district or charter school is in distance learning because county case rate numbers indicate the district should be in distance learning, direct services for students with disabilities should not be provided in the school age care for children of critical workers. The services may be provided by a staff member who is already staffing the school age care room. IEP teams, including the parent, should make individualized determinations about the level of appropriate support school age care staff provide during distance learning in the school-age child care program, and include these expectations in the student’s IEP.”

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