New Home, New School—What About My Child’s Accommodations?
Families often prefer moving during the summer months so that children can enter their new school at the beginning of the school year, rather than disrupting a semester. A summer move can also give families the chance to start the process of putting academic accommodations in place at the beginning of the term, rather than later in the year. When your child is enrolling in a new school, what do you need to do to make sure the IEP or 504 plan is still effective?
The US Department of Education’s Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) established guidelines for how IEPs are set up and maintained, while Section 504, which was created as part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is a civil rights statute. Both are clear about what happens when a child switches schools.
Changing schools, keeping academic plans
Reach out to the school as soon as you know you’ll be moving so you’re not scrambling the day before school starts, and schedule a time to visit the school with your child. You might want to contact your state’s director of special education as well as the state Parent Training and Information Center for information about guidelines in your child’s new school district.
“Many schools prefer to start transfer discussions of new students only a few weeks before the student begins school. However, this means your child might start school without needed supports in place,” warns Anne Penniston Grunsted of Complex Child. “Even if you have to show up unannounced at your school’s district office, engage in discussions as soon as you know your child is transferring.”
When you do get to the school, you’ll want to have on hand any records, reports, and evaluations relating to your child’s previous education plan. The new school is responsible for requesting a copy of the pre-existing IEP or 504 plan, but it’s a good idea to follow up later and make sure the school has received it.
If your child is staying in the same school district
If your child will still be a student in the same school district, her IEP or 504 plan will travel with her. It’s still a good idea to set aside time before the start of the school year to meet with the new school’s IEP coordinator, special educator coordinator or team leader, psychologist, or guidance counselor, and any other professionals who will help ensure the IEP or 504 is implemented throughout your child’s time at the school.
If you’re moving within the same state
If you’re leaving the school district but staying in the same state, the new school will want to conduct its own evaluation of your child. Until that happens, the school is required to carry over his pre-existing IEP or 504 plan. When registering your child at his new school, submit your request in writing for a new academic evaluation to begin the IEP or 504 plan process.
If your child is starting school in a new state
Like those who stay in the same state but switch districts, children who start school in a new state are guaranteed an education that meets their needs. That means that until a new evaluation is completed, your child’s needs will be met according to her old IEP or 504 plan until a new plan is completed and put into place. It’s important to keep in mind that just because she has had a plan in the past it does not mean her new school’s assessment will also find that she needs one. You can appeal the decision if the new school does not agree to provide an academic plan.
New school, new opportunities
Changing schools will mean a period of adjustment for your child. You can help her by encouraging her to join school clubs or looking for youth or scouting groups where she can meet new friends.
Get to know your child’s teachers and any other members of the education team handling her academic plan. Teachers want to see their students succeed and will often be interested in working with you to refine your child’s plan to what will work best. But if you do find resistance at the new school, be prepared to contact the local Parent Training and Information Center and ask for help or an advocate.
“The best defense is to walk into your meetings with a person the administration is familiar with—a formal advocate or even another parent who has negotiated a strong IEP within the district before,” says Ms. Penniston Grunsted.
Looking for more?
- Section 504
- Requesting an Evaluation
- Tips for Working with the School
- Tips for Talking to Teachers about ADHD
- ADHD and School: A Toolkit for Parents