All Header Images © Daniel Voegelin http://www.danvoegelin.com/  
 
03/27/20

MatchUS Seeking Families to match with Educators

Dear Families & Educators/Related Service Providers,

We have made over 100 matches this week! We are continuing to receive requests from families in need, and educators/related service providers eager to support. We hope to have you matched within the next few days. We appreciate your patience.

Right now, we have many educators/related service providers eager to help and we NEED more FAMILIES to match with the number of educators we have.

Please continue to share the links below with your family and education networks

 
Thank you for your support.

In gratitude,
The MatchUS Team

MatchUS is an community-driven educator/related service provider and family response to support our students (and their families!) with disabilities/IEPs/support needs during this time of social distancing. MatchUS, an effort supported by Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change, is working with families and educators ANYWHERE (not just MA) to support 1:1 conversations about how best to support our students at home.

O. Sophia Johansson
Northeast Regional Coordinator
Co-Chair, Board of Directors
Mass Families Organizing for Change
m: 617.935.2264
 

A statewide, grassroots coalition in
support of individuals with disabilities
and/or chronic illnesses and their families.


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03/26/20

Special Education Guidance From DESE

COVID-19 Information and Resources HERE

This page will provide information for schools about the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), and will be updated as additional guidance is available. For comprehensive emergency management planning information and related resources, visit the emergency management planning for schools web pages.

School Meals

On March 12, the USDA approved Massachusetts’ waiver request to allow schools where at least 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals to continue providing meals to students during a school closure. We also received approval to have these meals served in an appropriate format, such as a “grab-and-go” option, for students to take home.

On March 13, DESE sent out detailed guidance to all school districts and existing USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors detailing how to be approved to serve meals during a school closure and what the USDA reimbursement options are. Community-based organizations that participated in SFSP during summer 2019 are eligible to serve and claim meals for reimbursement to help supplement school districts’ meal distribution effort.

Schools that have a student free and reduced-price percentage under 50 percent can choose to provide meals at their own discretion during a school closure, but DESE cannot currently approve those meals for USDA reimbursement. Therefore, non-federal funds must be used to cover costs at this time. These schools should focus on households of enrolled free and reduced-price students and ensure that proper meal counting and adherence to the federal meal pattern is maintained in the event we receive new USDA guidance allowing federal reimbursement.

Schools need to contact their assigned DESE School Nutrition or Special Nutrition (SFSP option) Program consultants to discuss how to be approved for USDA reimbursement.

As meal distribution sites are approved, DESE will work with Project Bread to ensure the public is notified of student meal site locations and service times. In the meantime, please promote meal sites locally.

Counselors at Project Bread’s FoodSource Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 are available to connect your community to food resources in their community as well as provide them with information about elder meals programs and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The hotline will continue to operate Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Saturdays 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and can provide information in 160 languages.

Non-congregate meal site information can now be found through Project Bread’s School Closure Meal Site Finder

DESE Resources:

School Closure Process:

As of March 16, 2020, all public and private K-12 schools (except residential and day schools that serve students with disabilities) will be closed starting March 17 and will not reopen before April 6. Schools or districts that decide to be closed beyond those parameters are asked to:

  1. Contact their local Board of Health. District leaders may also wish to call DPH’s 24/7 epidemiology at 617-983-6800 but should be aware of the large volume of calls coming into that number.
  2. Contact Associate Commissioner Helene Bettencourt at Helene.H.Bettencourt@mass.gov  or 781-338-3120.

Large Events:

On March 13, 2020, Governor Baker issued an emergency order prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 individuals beginning on March 17 and effective until April 6.

180 School Day Requirement:

In light of concerns about possible school closings for public health reasons, Commissioner Riley has updated DESE’s guidance about the requirement for 180 days of school to provide relief to districts. (Note: The Department will continue to revisit this guidance if the situation warrants it.):

  1. All days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies between the first day of the school year and March 15 must be made up by rescheduling full school days to ensure a 180-day school year.
  2. All days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies between March 16 and June 1 must be made up to ensure a 180-day school year or until the district has reached its previously-scheduled 185th day, whichever comes first. If all five snow days have been used prior to this point, the district is not required to scheduled additional school days.
  3. Districts will not be expected to make up any days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies that occur after June 1.

This change means that if you have already canceled school for five days before March 15, you do not need to schedule additional make-up days for any days that school is closed after March 15. The longest that any school district will be required to go is its scheduled 185th day. No schools will be required to be in session after June 30. This policy applies to the current (2019-20) school year only. Anyone who feels that they have special circumstances should contact Associate Commissioner Helene Bettencourt at Helene.H.Bettencourt@mass.gov  or 781-338-3120.

Resources:

Federal

State

03/26/20

Message from SafetyNet Tracking Systems

Hello SEPAC Families:

In these trying times we want to pass on to you critical information on the SafetyNet program and we are open for business 24/7 for any questions or assistance you may need.

Those of you who currently have the SafetyNet tracker on your child, be sure the battery is working by using your tester and be sure to change it when the time comes. Our warehouse is fully operational and can ship any needed supplies.

As we all know, children with ASD can become confused and frightened, even regress, when routines are interrupted causing them to bolt from the safety of your care.

Should this happen, be sure to call 911 immediately and SafetyNet next. DO NOT spend precious time looking for them, call first then search for them leaving a contact number we can call you on.

For those of you wishing to enroll your child in SafetyNet, contact our Customer Service Center at 877-434-6384 or you can enroll on-line at www.safetynettracking.com.

If you are experiencing a financial issue, don’t let that stop you as there are funding options available in many areas. Nothing is more important than the safety of your child.

Thank you for your attention and please be safe as we work through this crisis together.

Ralph Poland
SafetyNet Tracking Systems
Field Operations Manager
Marshfield MA Police (Ret.)
110 K St., Suite 330, Boston MA 02127
508-530-1595 Cell
rpoland@safetynettracking.com
www.safetynettracking.com

03/23/20

Relief Bill Needs to Include People with Disabilities

NEW Coronavirus Relief Bill: Tell Congress to Include People With Disabilities (Send an email!)

Congress has passed two bills to respond to the coronavirus pandemic – but more must still be done to support people with disabilities, their families, and the direct support professional (DSP) workforce.

The entire country is facing the health and economic impacts of COVID-19, but people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. People with disabilities are more likely to have underlying health conditions and live in poverty – this means that they will be disproportionately impacted and need ongoing support.

The second Coronavirus Relief Bill was an important step in getting people the support they need. It included increased funding for state Medicaid programs, and it expanded sick leave for workers, including for some workers who support people with disabilities to live independently. But Congress did not address the needs of people with disabilities!

We must ask Members of Congress to pass a bill that addresses the ongoing needs of people with disabilities during this crisis, including:

  • Funding for a Medicaid grant program to support access to home and community-based services (to combat institutionalization) and to support the DSP workforce and a permanent reauthorization of the Money Follows the Person (MFP) program.
  • Raising Medicaid, SSI, and SNAP asset limits. People on these programs are subject to strict asset limits that need to be raised to ensure stimulus payments do not put benefits at risk.
  • Boosting Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for the crisis. People with disabilities and seniors are some of the hardest hit by this pandemic. Benefits should be boosted to help people with disabilities recover.
  • Paid leave for caregivers for people with disabilities. In the last bill, Congress covered sick days for many workers, but did not include caregivers who need to take time off support people with disabilities who have lost or will lose their usual sources of care.
  • AND no limitations on disability rights protections should be included in the legislation.

Use the form Here to send an email to urge your Members of Congress to include the rights and needs of people with disabilities in coronavirus relief legislation! You will be able to edit the sample email before you send it!

03/23/20

Seeking Support for Our Children/ Buscando Ayuda para Nuestros Niños

Families Get Help Here

FAMILIES: Seeking Support for Our Children with IEPs/Support Needs/ FAMILIAS: Buscando Ayuda para Nuestros Niños con Planes de Educación Individualizados/Necesidades de Apoyo

OPEN TO ANYONE, ANYWHERE!

Families, we hear you. This time is unbelievably challenging as routines are upended, special education services are suddenly gone, and social distancing adds layers upon layers of difficulty. And many caregivers are also working from home or have had their jobs entirely upended.You may be wondering: how do I set routines at home to support my children, especially my children with disabilities? You may be wondering: how does my child who receives a rules-based reading program not lose all that they have gained? You may be wondering: how does my child receive PT/OT/Speech during a time of social distancing?

As educators/PT/Speech/OT/Behavior Specialists/Nurses/Consultants we want to HELP YOU. Please fill out the form below and you will be put in contact with an educator who can have a phone call, a google hang out, zoom call, or a video chat to better help you support your children with disabilities. This might be a 1-time check-in call, a weekly check-in, or who knows!

Educators want to help connect families to be virtual free consultants to help coach you – families – about what we’ve learned about being teachers and support staff for children with disabilities. We want to hear family stories.

Together we will be creative, flexible, and show up for each other.

Any questions/ideas: feel free to contact Emma Fialka-Feldman (an elementary teacher and sibling to an older brother with an intellectual disability) at emma.fialkafeldman@gmail.com or O. Sophia Johansson, Mass Families Organizing for Change Sophia@massfamilies.org
(https://www.mfofc.org/ -a statewide, grassroots coalition of individuals with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses and their families). Open to more ways to be a connector! This is open to ANYONE, living ANYWHERE!

If you know educators who want to help – have them complete this form: https://forms.gle/hAr6VDXaxSR8F2g29

En Español:

Familias, los escuchamos. Estos tiempos son increíblemente difíciles con todas las rutinas que han volcado, los servicios de Educación Especial de repente ya no los tenemos, y lo que ocurre con la distancia social añade capas de dificultad. Muchos padres/cuidadores ahora están trabajando desde casa o están en situaciones en cual trabajo a volcado.

Quizás te estarás preguntando: cómo puedo colocar rutinas en casa para apoyar a mis niños, especialmente los niños con desabilidades? Quizás te estarás preguntando: cómo puede mi niño(a), que recibe apoyo en lectura a través de un programa, seguir recibiendo apoyo para evitar que pierdan todo lo que con esfuerzo se ha ganado? Quizás te estarás preguntando: cómo puede mi niño(a) recibir terapia física/ocupacional/logopedia durante este tiempo en cual practicamos distancia social?

Como educadores/especialistas de terapia física, logopedia, ocupacional, conducta/Enfermeros, Consultantes queremos AYUDARTE. Por favor llene el formulario debajo y te pondremos en contacto con un educador que te pueda llamar, hacer un google hangout, llamada de zoom, o video-chatear para proveer ayuda para apoyar a su niño(a) con desabilidades. Esto puede ser algo que suceda una vez, semanal, o quien sabe!

Educadores quieren ayudar a connectar familias con consultos virtuales gratis para que te puedan – familias – ayudar/entrenar acerca lo que hemos aprendido siendo profesores y otros personales de apoyo para niños con desabilidades. Queremos escuchar historias familiares.

Juntos seremos creativos, flexibles, y apoyo uno para el otro.

Cualquier pregunta/ideas: por favor siéntase libre para contactar a Emma Fialka-Feldman (una maestra de primaria y hermana de un individual con una Descapacidad Intellectual) en emma.fialkafeldman@gmail.com o O. Sophia Johansson, Familias de Mass Organizando para Cambios Sophia@massfamilies.org
(https://www.mfofc.org/ -a statewide, grassroots coalition of individuals with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses and their families) Esto está abierto para TODOS viviendo DONDE SEA!

Si conoce algún educador que quiera ayudar – pídale que complete este formulario: https://forms.gle/hAr6VDXaxSR8F2g29

03/19/20

BPS Special Education Update 3/19/20

1. BPS’ Office of Special Education Resources website can be found HERE (bit.ly/OSEResources). You will also find social/ visual stories about Coronavirus and school closures.

 

2. It is expected that students will receive outreach and google classroom time from their teachers prior to March 27th. It is not mandatory for students but strongly suggested to provide learning opportunities. If you do not hear from your teachers by March 27th, please let BPS know by contacting specialeducation@bostonpublicschools.org and email@bostonspedpac.org.

3. Individual Education Plan (IEP) annual reviews and some original reviews and reevaluations will be held virtually, if the parent(s) agrees. BPS office of special education will be sending additional information out about this.

4. If your child does not have access to a laptop, please fill out the Laptop Request Form Here.

5. If you have concerns about your child’s special education services and needs, please email:specialeducation@bostonpublicschools.org.   The email address is being monitored throughout the day, while staff work remotely.

6. While school is closed, BPS is providing free breakfast and lunch to all Boston families. Packaged meals may be picked up Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM – 11:30 aM. A list of BPS and city wide sites can be found HERE.

7. BPS can deliver meals to your home for your BPS student with IEP services that include door-to-door transportation, and any other BPS students in the household. If you would like to participate, please email mealdelivery@bostonpublicschools.org and let them know you want to be included in the BPS meal delivery service.

As additional information is shared, our board of parent volunteers will keep you posted. Please stay safe and feel free to reach out with concerns and/or questions.

mail: email@bostonspedpac.org
website:  http://www.bostonspedpac.org
facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/BostonSPEDPAC
youtube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/BostonSpedPac
twitter: @BostonSpedPac    http://twitter.com/@BostonSpedPac
SpedPac VM:  617.297.7335

01/13/15

Mayor Walsh State of the City Speech 2015 – Education and Special Education Issues

My plan for Boston’s future begins in our schools—all of our schools. We’ve talked about fixing our schools for decades. Now, we’re taking action.

2030 may seem a long way off. But consider this: the little girl who signed up for pre-school this week will be a high school graduate in 2030. Her life will tell a story of Boston’s 21st century. So a Boston that is thriving, healthy, and innovative

in its fifth century depends greatly on what we do for her right now.

Yes, we have some progress to celebrate—maybe more than other big cities. But families with school-age kids aren’t celebrating. A lot of the time they see a great school—quite literally—as a prize in a lottery.

Think about that. In the city that established public education; a city with the greatest universities in the world; access to an excellent public school is seen as a lucky break. Meanwhile, more than 30% of our high school students don’t graduate in 5 years. That is just not acceptable.

Next month, I will get the names of the final candidates for the next superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. Whomever is selected for this job, my message and orders will be clear: I am not satisfied. The Boston Public Schools can do much better for our kids. We have to do better. We will do better.

My administration is moving forward.

We are working with the BTU to ratify a plan to add 40 minutes of quality learning time–every day, for every student through 8th grade.

We are expanding high-quality, full-day pre-kindergarten, with the goal of reaching every 4-year-old in the city.

We are re-designing our high schools around pathways to college and career. We tripled the size of the Success Boston college completion program. And tonight I’m excited to announce a new partnership with the global software company SAP to create a high-tech career pipeline from Charlestown High School to Bunker Hill Community College.

We’ve revamped the Boston School Committee: by appointing an early learning specialist and a special ed advocate; and two members who are parents of kids in our Boston Public Schools.

And there’s still more to come. When I talk about building great schools—I mean it literally. Too many of Boston’s aging schools don’t meet the standards of 21st-century learning—or come anywhere close. So we are going to establish the city’s first permanent school building program in many decades. We’re drafting a 10-year Facilities Plan, to identify the needs in every neighborhood. And we’re creating a Boston School Building Authority, to tap the funding sources our city has failed to secure in the past.

We began last year with a new STEM Academy for Roxbury. Our next projects will be Fenway’s Boston Arts Academy and Quincy Upper School in Chinatown. I want to thank the parent councils at these schools. After enduring years of false starts, their dedication will pay off now, and for generations to come.

Finally, we know the opportunity gap begins outside the classroom. So our new Office of Financial Empowerment will launch a free child savings account program. Research shows that it’s a building-block of opportunity.

To recap: that’s a strong start; a full day’s school; real pathways to college and career; a permanent building program; and a commitment to fighting poverty. And I’m just getting started. We will not be satisfied with anything short of success: for every child in every family, at every school in every community in our city.