Special Education COVID Learning Loss Addressed In New NJ Bill

NEW JERSEY – A new bill is making its way into the New Jersey legislature, which, if passed, will give families who need extra time to apply for services if their children with special needs have suffered learning losses during the COVID pandemic -19.

The current application period for the Individualized Education Program (IEP) to help children with special needs who may face additional learning difficulties after virtual and hybrid learning related to the pandemic ends in March, around the second anniversary of the pandemic, NJ reports. . tav.

Under Senate Bill S905 and its accompanying Assembly Bill A1281, families were required by September 1, 2023, to file a lawsuit for the IEP under the law.

The Education for People with Disabilities Act (IDEA) gives parents, guardians, or educational institutions the opportunity to request a hearing within two years if there is disagreement in a public school district about “identifying, assessing, or educating a child with disabilities or providing free and appropriate public education, ”the bill says.

The retrospective bill will allow guardians of students or educational agencies representing them to request hearings under the law between March 18, 2020 and September 1, 2021, when many schools were fully virtual and some hybrid, with a new term September 1, 2023, the bill said.

The bill also states that local educational agencies must hold IEP team meetings by December 31 to “discuss the need for compensatory education and services for every student with a disability who has had an IEP at any time from March 18, 2020 to September 1, 2021.” – also said in the bill.

State Senator Vin Gopal (D-Freehold) – one of the sponsors of the bill – told Patch in a telephone interview Thursday that he had heard concerns from families and school districts about the approaching deadline, hoping there might be a way for extension.

Gene Stanfield (R-Mount Holly) – another state senator who co-sponsored the bill – told Patch in an email Wednesday that the legislature remains in touch with the special needs community during the pandemic, “to find out as to best cope with the process of transitioning from this ”.

“Personally, I have had many meetings with advocates, schools and families,” Stanfield wrote. “There is a big concern that these students will fail because of all the lesson plans they missed and the difficulties with online schools in the community.”

“COVID-19 has affected many people in many ways,” Gopal said, noting the impact on students with mental and physical disabilities without a physical office.

An earlier version of the bill with Senator Theresa M. Ruiz (D-Newark), the main sponsor, passed through the legislature at the 2020-2021 legislature, but was only unanimously passed in the Senate on January 10th. Ruiz is also a sponsor of the latest bill with Gopal.

Gopal called the bill a “good government policy” that received bipartisan support.

The bill was unanimously passed Monday in the Senate, 34-0. It was also received that day at the Assembly for a second reading. Gopal said he hopes it will take place at the assembly in March. After being passed in the Senate and Assembly, Gov. Phil Murphy has 30 days to sign it, he said.

“Our job is to make sure we don’t use the pandemic as an excuse to leave them [special needs students] behind, and we give everyone the opportunity to hold an IEP hearing, ”Stanfield said.

Have questions or comments on this story? Have a hint of news? Contact me at: jennifer.miller@patch.com.

This article originally appeared on the Mendham-Chester patch

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