Feds Give Direction on Reopening Schools for Students with Disabilities

The CDC and Department of Education Want In-Person Learning But with Precautions

Two separate documents issued earlier this month from the federal government outlined plans to safely reopen schools for in-person learning. These guidelines include details for students with disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an operational strategy document for schools which calls for universal masking, social distancing, hand-washing, special cleaning for facilities and contact tracing. Additionally, this document discusses regular testing and vaccinations for school staff but states that neither are essential for reopening schools. A separate handbook from the Department of Education dovetails the CDC reopening guidelines and makes the case that students with disabilities should not be left behind as in-person instruction starts again. In fact, the agency goes one step further and points out that special needs students often have difficulties with remote learning and says that prioritizing this group for classroom learning is appropriate. The Education Department also weighed in on mask wearing compliance for special education students who are unable to tolerate face coverings. The agency said that the inability to wear a mask should not prohibit students from attending school in person. In certain cases, virtual learning will still be an option for students who are at risk for severe illness or for those who live with someone that is at high risk. 

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