(2021, September) | Useful to all Parent Center staff, SEAs, LEAs, schools, and disability leaders with respect to requirements under IDEA for IEPs

Also available in Spanish | Desarrollo e implementación de programas de educación individualizada en el entorno menos restrictivo conforme a la ley de educación para personas con discapacidades


Adding to its “Return to School Roadmap” series, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education issues this Q&A document (OSEP QA 21-06), which highlights certain IDEA requirements related to the development and implementation of individualized education programs (IEPs) and other information that state educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs), regular and special education teachers, related services providers, and parents should consider as students with disabilities return to school in 2021. The 41-page document is the Department’s response to the requests it received from a diverse group of stakeholders, asking that the Department issue new guidance interpreting requirements of the IDEA in light of the many challenges of the COVID‑19 pandemic and as more schools and programs are returning to in-person services.

To give you an idea of how extensively the Q&A document covers many of IDEA’s most key requirements, we provide the Table of Contents for the document further below, followed by quick links you can use to access the other “Return to School Roadmap” documents in the series.

Access the Q&A in HTML format for ease of reading online, at:

A PDF of the Q&A is available, at:

As mentioned above, a Spanish-language version of the Q&A is also available.

Note | Other than statutory and regulatory requirements included in this Q&A document, the contents of this guidance do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies. The questions and answers in this document are not intended to be a replacement for careful study of IDEA and its implementing regulations. The IDEA, its implementing regulations, and other important documents related to IDEA and the regulations are found at: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/

Back to top

Table of Contents of the Q&A


A. Ensuring IEPs Are in Effect at the Start of the School Year
B. Convening the IEP Team
C. Consideration of Special Factors

—Considering the Assistive Technology Needs of a Child with a Disability
—Addressing the Social, Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health Needs of Children with Disabilities
—Addressing the School-Related Health Needs of Children with Disabilities with Underlying Medical Conditions

D. Determining Appropriate Measurable Annual Goals & Considering the Child’s Need for Compensatory Services
E. Making Extended School Year (ESY) Services Determinations
F. Considering Secondary Transition Services
G. Making Educational Placement Decisions
H. Resolving Disagreements regarding a Child’s Educational Program

Back to top

Other Documents in the Return to School Roadmap Series

As part of the launch of the Return to School Roadmap, the Department released:

A Guide for K-12 Schools and Communities for the 2021-2022 School Year | A fact sheet for schools, families, and communities on the Return to School Roadmap, reviewing the three “Landmark” priorities, and elevating schools and districts that are addressing each in effective ways

How to Prioritize the Health and Safety of Students, School Personnel, and Families | A guide for schools and districts outlining what schools can do to protect the health and safety of students, including increasing access to vaccinations and steps for implementing the CDC’s recently updated K-12 school guidance

A Resource for Parents on Returning to In-Person Learning | A checklist that parents can use to prepare themselves and their children for a safe return to in-person learning this fall, leading with vaccinating eligible children and masking up if students are not yet vaccinated

Other noteworthy guidance documents from the Department and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include the following:

Volume 1 | Strategies for Safely Reopening Elementary and Secondary Schools
This first handbook was originally released in February 2021 and updated in April. It focuses on health and safety measures that schools can use to successfully implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) K-12 Operational Strategy. See also CPIR’s infographic summary of Volume 1.

Volume 2 | Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs
The second COVID-19 handbook provides additional strategies for safely reopening all of America’s schools, while promoting educational equity to address long-standing opportunity gaps that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The volume spotlights research-based strategies for addressing the social, emotional, mental-health, and academic impacts of the pandemic on students, educators, and staff. See also CPIR’s infographic summary of Volume 2.

Volume 3 | Roadmap to Safely Reopening Institutions of Higher Education
This volume highlights strategies for safe operation and addressing the impact of COVID-19 on higher education students, faculty, and staff.