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Special Education

The Special Education team is committed to the mission of empowering every student to be successful in college, career, and the community. The team serves to prepare our students for positive outcomes by ensuring inclusion and equity for students in our educational communities through ongoing multi-disciplinary collaboration and decision-making, intentional and individualized service provision and monitoring, and alignment with family and community partnerships.


Letter from the Executive Director of Student Support Services:



August 26, 2020

Dear Parents of Students in Special Education,

Welcome back! Many questions have surfaced regarding what school will look like for our students in special education during the 2020-21 school year. We understand that this is an exceptionally complex time and that there are many questions or concerns you may have. It is our hope that this letter gives you some information and peace of mind as we head into the start of school.

First and foremost, our primary focus remains that we follow Federal Law IDEA to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for all of our students in special education in their Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). What that means is that students' IEPs will continue to be followed as closely as possible to what is currently written in them. There may be instances where some modifications need to be made to your child’s IEP as we adjust to current COVID-19 restrictions. Your child’s case manager will make sure that you are fully informed and agreeable to those changes when and if they become necessary.

As far as service delivery is concerned, all special education services will continue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic response. Your family had the choice to have your child(ren) attend school either in-person, blended, or online. Families received a survey in early August to select their learning model choice(s) for their child(ren). In each scenario, special education services will continue for your child(ren). If choosing remote, your services will continue with a remote Special Education teacher and remote related service providers (if indicated in your child’s IEP).

Your child in special education will be part of a cohort in their school. A cohort is a group of children and adults that are together for learning during the school days. Students remain with their cohort and, to the extent possible, do not mix with other cohorts. This is to minimize contact between many adults and students. Special education teachers and related service providers (speech, occupational therapists, physical therapists, etc.) will be assigned to particular schools so that they are able to service their students according to their IEPs. Schools are developing individual models of service delivery so check with your child’s school and/or special education case manager for more details of how services will be delivered.

For parents of children with Significant Support Needs (SSN), if you haven’t already heard from your child’s case manager regarding the instructional model for your SSN student, you should reach out to the school directly.

If your child has medical needs, it will be important to consult with your child’s Primary Care Provider (PCP) to ensure that the learning model you selected is appropriate and safe for your child.

Due to health and safety concerns, our district has a face coverings policy that requires all students K-12 to wear appropriate face coverings while at school. Medical exemptions will be considered with a note from the Primary Care Provider indicating that your child cannot wear a mask and is safe to attend a public school setting without a mask. If there are concerns regarding face coverings, please work with the case manager and school administrators to determine what reasonable accommodations can be made, which might include a shift to remote learning.

Our teachers and related service providers are being trained on sanitization procedures so that they can ensure the health and safety of our students when traveling from their cohort to a specific service provider. Our special education staff have also received specialized training to provide remote/online instruction. This school year, remote/online instruction will look far different than it did in the spring. You can expect a much more robust online experience for your student this year if that is the route you choose.

As you find yourself with additional questions, the first and best place for district information is our website: www.durangoschools.org. If you don’t find an answer there, please contact your child’s case manager at the school. If you need further information or clarification you may contact:
Steve Steiner, Coordinator of Special Education, Durango School District 9-R, ssteiner@durangoschools.org

There are some great parent resources on the Colorado Department of Education’s website: http://www.cde.state.co.us/cdesped/covid19-family.

We understand that these are uncertain times and that the uncertainty creates questions and concerns for you as parents of children with special needs. We are here to support you and your child(ren). Please reach out to your school and/or to us here at the District Office if we can be of service.


Vanessa Giddings, Executive Director of Student Support Services





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