The School District of Philadelphia plans to open six centers around the city to provide in-person assessments for students with special needs.
The Specialized Services Regional Centers will begin operating Jan. 25 from within six schools throughout the city, the district said in a press release. The centers “will allow trained staff to conduct in-person student assessments and complete evaluations and reevaluations needed to inform Individualized Education Plans (IEPs),” according to the district.
An IEP is a federal mandate for students with special needs enrolled in public schools. It generally sets out the educational and developmental goals for the child for a particular school year.
“Parents, teachers, administrators and staff have continued to adjust and be creative to best support our students with diverse needs. Opening these centers is a crucial next step to help us evaluate and meet their needs during these challenging times,” Superintendent William Hite said in a statement.
The assessments will be used to determine if students will be eligible for special education services or to continue the services they already have.
Assessors will start reaching out to most eligible students and their guardians beginning Jan. 19 to schedule their assessments, though some will be contacted as early as Jan. 15, said ShaVon Savage, the deputy chief of the district's Office of Specialized Services.
Coronavirus safety precautions will be in place during the assessments, including mask-wearing and social distancing practices. Students will be administered free rapid COVID-19 antigen tests before proceeding to their appointment, while staff will fill out a daily questionnaire asking if they have symptoms of the virus, as well as take free weekly tests, said Student Health Medical Officer, Dr. Barbara Klock.
Assessments will last a maximum of three hours, Klock said. An individual student will be assessed in a room by either one or two staff members and, if needed, a parent or guardian will also be in the room, she said. Everyone will wear masks, and assessors will have the option of adding a face shield if they come within six feet of a student for things like occupational therapy.
Guardians will be responsible for getting students to the centers, but the district said it will consider transportation assistant requests. Anyone who needs transportation to a center should provide advanced notice, Savage said.
The six assessment centers will be at the following locations:
- West Philadelphia High School
4901 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19139
- Arts Academy At Benjamin Rush
11081 Knights Rd., Philadelphia, PA 19154
- Martin Luther King High School
6100 Stenton Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19138
- Thomas A. Edison High School
151 West Luzerne St., Philadelphia, PA 19140
- Strawberry Mansion High School
3133 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19132
- Creative and Performing Arts High School
901 S, Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19147