Contingency Learning Plans for the 2021-22 School Year

School officials should review each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and consider whether a Contingency Learning Plan (CLP) should be created or modified for this school year.

In general, a CLP is a written plan that ad­dresses when a student may need to re­ceive special education and related services virtually or in an alternate format due to COVID-19. A CLP should describe the circum­stances that would trigger its use. It should also de­scribe the special education and supplemental aids and services to be provided during its implementation. CLPs are optional, not legally required. But, in the ab­sence of a CLP, it may be necessary to amend a student’s IEP if circumstances change and the IEP is written in a manner that is not location-neutral as to the delivery of special education and related services (i.e., it cannot be implemented in the same or similar manner during in-person and remote instruction).

In response to COVID-19 school closures in 2020, the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education, highly recommended that schools develop CLPs outside of the IEP process (i.e., without par­ent/guardian input, an IEP Team meeting, an IEP amendment, or prior written notice). Thrun Law Firm repeatedly advised schools that CLPs must be com­pleted through either the IEP or IEP amendment process.

If your school developed CLPs without convening an IEP Team meeting or completing a proper IEP amendment, we strongly recommend not doing so this year. The school should convene an IEP Team meeting or complete an IEP amendment with parent/guardian agreement before drafting or implementing a CLP. Re­latedly, if a student’s previous CLP was not developed through the IEP or IEP amendment process, did not provide the student a Free Appropriate Public Educa­tion (FAPE), or is expired, then a new CLP or an updated IEP may be necessary.

The supplemental aids and services section of the IEP should reference the CLP as follows:

The IEP Team determined that the Student requires a Contingency Learning Plan to address potential COVID-19 related interruptions to in-person instruction. The Contingency Learning Plan is attached to this IEP and may be amended by the District, in consultation with the Student’s parent/guardian, outside of the IEP process.

A copy of the CLP and any later modifications should be provided to the parent/guardian and should be accompanied with prior written notice.

A student’s IEP is the school’s offer of FAPE that drives special education programs and services. A CLP is typically not necessary if the IEP Team de­velops an IEP for the student that is location-neutral and re­flects the programs and services to be provided to the student.

Ultimately, school officials must ensure that students with disabilities receive a FAPE, in­cluding the special education and related services iden­tified in the IEP. Failure to do so may violate the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Thrun Law Firm developed a template COVID-19 CLP with instructions for its use, which is available for purchase for $265. Please contact a Thrun special education attorney to purchase a copy.

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