ESY: It’s That Time of Year Again
By Michael Connolly, Esq.
This time of the year is usually filled with excitement about the end of school, long days at the pool, barbecues, and family vacations. However, for families with students with special needs, the end of the school year is also filled with last minute discussions about Extend School Year (“ESY”) eligibility and services. Many times the eligibility discussions at IEP team meetings center on issues of regression and recoupment; in other words, the team usually focuses its analysis on whether a student regresses in certain skills areas over extended breaks from school, and the extent to which he or she has difficulty recouping those skills upon his or her return to school. While a regression/recoupment analysis is certainly one factor that should be considered in determining eligibility for ESY, it is far from being the only factor. For example, Chapter 14 of the Pennsylvania Code requires school districts to also consider:
- The extent to which a student has mastered and consolidated an important skill or behavior at the point when educational programming would be interrupted;
- The extent to which a skill or behavior is particularly crucial for a student to meet the IEP goals of self-sufficiency and independence from caretakers;
- The extent to which successive interruptions in educational programming result in a student’s withdrawal from the learning process; and
- Whether the student’s disability is severe, such as autism/pervasive developmental disorder, serious emotional disturbance, severe mental retardation, degenerative impairments with mental involvement and severe multiple disabilities.
In order to determine whether a child is eligible for ESY under any of the above factors, the IEP team should be reviewing of variety of data and information that should have been collected throughout the school on a particular child, including progress on goals in consecutive IEPs, progress reports maintained by educators, therapists and others, reports by parents of negative changes in adaptive behaviors or in other skill areas, medical or other agency reports indicating degenerative-type difficulties, which become exacerbated during breaks in educational services, observations and opinions by educators, parents and others, and the results of tests, curriculum-based assessments, and other similar measures.
Eligibility is not the only subject of the ESY conversations that are taking place right now in many public school districts. Families often find themselves in disagreements with their school district over the specific ESY programming and services to be provided to their child. Many school districts have standard ESY programs, that typical last for 5 or so weeks over the summer, 3 to 5 days per week, and anywhere from a couple of hours per day to close to a full day. While a school district’s standard ESY program may be appropriate for some students, ESY programming must be just as individualized to the specific student as regular school year programming. That means that the number of weeks over the summer, the number of days each week, and the number hours each day – not to mention the specific supports, services, and programming provided during the day – are determined by the needs of the specific student. Other factors, such as Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”) must also be considered in ESY programming.
Remember, if you do have a disagreement over ESY eligibility or programming, you are entitled to expedited procedures to resolve the dispute so that your child can timely access an appropriate ESY program. For further information on such a resolution, visit www.mcandrewslaw.com or call 610-648-9300 for your free special education consultation.