The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented disruptions to the education system since initial school closures in March 2020. Educators, school leaders, and administrators have been tasked not only to confront day-to-day ambiguity and manage widespread “learning loss”, but also to bring justice to longstanding educational inequities that were illuminated and exacerbated by the pandemic. For the special education community, supporting historically underserved students with disabilities amidst the new challenges of COVID-19 has made it clear that neither a continuation of initial pandemic response strategies, nor a return to the pre-pandemic status quo, truly offers educational equity for students with disabilities.
Instead, this current moment represents an opportunity to shift our approach to special education to offer more equitable and effective educational programming for students with disabilities. Following the collective, abrupt departure from traditional school settings, IDEA--originally intended to ensure access to school buildings for students with disabilities--can be reimagined as full commitment to supporting the individual needs of every student with a disability. Within this framework, schools and districts can leverage innovative developments and lessons learned from the pandemic toward a more cohesive, responsive, and effective system of special education.