Return to School Guidance for Individuals and Families


The Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) created this guidance to help individuals with disabilities and their families decide whether to return to an in-person school environment this year. It includes a list of questions, helpful information, and resources to consider when making decisions about going back to school.

Please contact your Support Coordinator or if you have any questions.


What Support Can Schools Provide?

Each school district created their own reopening plan. A reopening plan details how schools within the district will safely conduct in-person instruction in fall of 2020. You can find a copy of each plan on your school district’s website. The Utah School Reopening Plans 2020-2021 document by the Utah State Board of Education has a list of each district’s website where you can review their reopening plan. The Department of Health worked with the Utah State Board of Education and Local Health Departments to create COVID-19 School Manual of health guidance.

If you do not know which school district you are in, use the Utah State Board of Education’s Utah Schools Directory to find out.

Some school districts are offering virtual learning resources, such as laptop computers, for students who may not have access to a computer or the internet at home. Additionally, some school districts will continue to provide “grab-and-go” meals for students who may be learning virtually. Please contact your school district to find out whether they are providing these types of support.

Supports needed for education purposes should be directed to the individual’s Local Education Agency. The Utah Parent Center has resources and staff that can help families navigate this process if needed.

What Supports Can DSPD Provide?

DSPD worked with the Utah Department of Health to identify strategies that meet individual needs during the current pandemic within the limitations of our services. You and your support team should explore all available school resources before using DSPD services to meet your needs. Students can use DSPD supports during school hours during the public health emergency. Supports through Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers should not fill the role of the educator. Supports to engage in virtual learning are allowed. Virtual learning supports can be assistance with signing on, using the virtual platform, studying, or completing homework. Supports may be provided due to school’s only having a virtual option, or based on your need and risk.

When the public health emergency for the current pandemic is declared over, any temporary supports provided during this time period will need to be revisited and person centered support plans adapted for your ongoing needs.  

If you have questions about your specific situation and what supports you may need, discuss this with your Support Coordinator and work with your support team to understand what they are able to provide.

Should You or Your Family Member Return to an In-Person School Environment?

Returning to an in-person school environment now or in the future is a personal decision made by you and your family. Your support team is available to assist you. Below are decision-making and guided conversation tools that may help you make an informed decision.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a Back to School Decision-Making Tool to assist parents, caregivers, and guardians with weighing the risks and benefits of available educational options. After filling out the tool, you may want to share the tool with your support team to make your views, concerns, and suggestions known.

The following questions are meant to assist support teams with education decisions based on available educational options; safety considerations; and individual and family strengths and needs.  

  1. Available through home, school, Provider, or other means
  2. Available in a location helpful to learning

If the individual is in the custody of the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) or the Division of Juvenile Justice Services (JJS), it may be necessary for the custodial agency to make a final decision based on the individual’s safety and best interests, with strong consideration of the individual’s and family’s preferences. The custodial agency will work with the support team to create an education plan for the individual within the needed time frame.

The CDC also has information to help guide individual decision making surrounding how to meet not only the educational needs of each individual, but other needs that are also addressed at school.

Accomodations to Wearing Face Coverings

On July 17, 2020, the Utah Department of Health issued a public health order mandating the use of face coverings in all K-12 schools for all employees, students, and visitors when on school property or on a school bus.

The order establishes certain exemptions to this requirement:

Individuals may also be exempt from this public health order if they have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), or a Section 504 accommodation plan that would require the individual to have an exemption to wearing a face covering.

Please reach out directly to your school to request an accommodation if needed.

Resources for Returning to School

The CDC has created checklists intended to help parents, guardians, and caregivers, plan and prepare for the upcoming school year based on the learning option they choose: