Services Beyond the School Year for Students With IEPs
Some students in special education are eligible for Extended School Year (ESY) services.
By Candace Cortiella, The Advocacy Institute
If your child receives special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), did you know he may be eligible for a program of special education and/or services beyond the normal school year? Such services are commonly referred to as extended school year (ESY) services. Read on to learn how ESY might help your child, the types of services it might include, and how his Individualized Education Program (IEP) team would determine if he's eligible.
What Are Extended School Year (ESY) Services?
ESY services are individualized special education and/or related services (such as speech/language therapy or occupational therapy) that are uniquely designed to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to a student with disabilities (as mandated by IDEA). Need for ESY services is determined by the student's IEP team. ESY services are provided beyond the normal school year of a school district — that includes both the days of the school year and the hours of the school day. ESY services must be provided at no cost to the parents. It's important to understand that ESY services are not the same as:
- summer school
- compensatory services
- enrichment programs
ESY services are not limited to the summer break. While this is generally the longest break from the normal school year, ESY services may be needed during shorter breaks (such as winter and spring holiday breaks) of one or two weeks in length. ESY services can even be an extension of the student's normal school day, such as a special tutoring program.
ESY services are not necessarily a continuation of the student's entire special education program. Some students may need only certain instruction and/or related services (such as reading instruction or speech/language therapy) outside of the normal school year.
IDEA Regulations and Extended School Year Services
The IDEA regulations define "extended school year services" as special education and related services that:
Are provided to a child with a disability...
- Beyond the normal school year of the public agency (typically the school district);
- In accordance with a child's IEP;
- At no cost to the parents of the child; and
- Meet the standards of the State Educational Agency.
Who Is Eligible for ESY Services?
Any student who is eligible to receive special education and related services may be eligible for ESY. A student's need — or eligibility — for ESY is determined by his IEP team, including the parent(s). The decision is based solely on the individual needs of the student.
While federal IDEA regulations provide little specific guidance about how to determine a student's eligibility for ESY, they do offer a few general requirements. These are:
- All school districts must ensure that ESY services are available as necessary to provide FAPE to eligible students. This doesn't mean that every school district must provide the services, but rather, each district must ensure availability. So, for example, a district might provide ESY services to eligible students by contracting with a nearby district or a private provider.
- The student's specific type of disability does not determine eligibility. School districts are not allowed to limit ESY services to particular categories of disability. So, for example, a school district cannot have a policy that prohibits ESY services for all students with learning disabilities.
- School districts may not unilaterally limit the type, amount or duration of ESY services. So, for example, a school district may not have a policy that restricts ESY services to the same period of time that it conducts its regular summer school program for all students.
- A school district may not use a lack of resources as a reason for not examining a student's possible need for ESY services or for not providing ESY services to an eligible student.
How Is Eligibility for ESY Determined?
As noted earlier, the federal IDEA law and regulations provide little guidance on how to determine the need for ESY services. Therefore, the eligibility procedures and considerations have evolved from case law — the body of law created by judges' written opinions in cases involving ESY services.
Determining a student's need for ESY services must be part of the IEP process. Ideally, the IEP team should consider the need for ESY services at the initial IEP meeting for a student who is newly eligible for special education and at each IEP meeting thereafter — generally annually. This makes the consideration of ESY an integral part of any IEP meeting. However, if necessary, an IEP meeting can be called for the express purpose of considering the student's need for ESY services.