Local school districts are required to consider the need for Extended School Year Services (ESY) for each student with a disability. ESY may be necessary to provide a particular student a free appropriate public education as required by P.L. 94-142. It is recommended that districts have ESY policies to avoid arbitrary decisions concerning the provision of an ESY for any student, and to assist district personnel in determining the appropriateness of ESY for any individual student. An extended school year policy is required to be in place if a district wants to receive exceptional pupil aid for the students served during the extended school year period.
The policy should provide that ESY be addressed in Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) by the IEP team, in the same manner as are all other programming needs. ESY is not a supplemental or related service, but an integral part of the student's IEP. Therefore, documentation of the goals and objectives to be addressed during the extended school year session should be reflected in the student's annual IEP. Parental involvement is significant in planning for ESY programs, as it is in all other IEP decisions.
As with all other programming needs, it is recommended that the need for ESY be documented via data gathered about the student's performance in relation to the IEP goals and objectives. Additionally, it is recommended that if there is insufficient data at the time of the initial IEP meeting to determine whether ESY is appropriate, the team specify a time frame and the methods that will be used to collect data to determine the appropriateness of ESY at a future IEP meeting.
The seminal extended school year case in Missouri is Yaris v Special School District 558 F. Supp. 545 (E.D. Mo 1983). In Yaris the court held that the school year for special education students cannot arbitrarily be limited to 180 days; that because special education students require individualized programs, an extended school year may need to be part of an individual student's program. Yaris in so holding, recognized the importance of regression/recoupment considerations in determining whether a 180-day school year meets the individualized program needs of a specific student.
In formulating your district policy you may want to also consider the following factors suggested in various court cases from other jurisdictions:
- Nature of the child's disability;
- The severity of the disability;
- The areas of learning crucial to the child's attainment of self- sufficiency and independence;
- Child's progress, behavioral and physical needs;
- Opportunities to practice skills outside the formal classroom setting
(the more functional the skill, the more opportunities the child has to practice it);
- Availability of alternative resources;
- Areas of child's curriculum which need continuous attention;
- Child's vocational needs;
- Ability of child's parents to provide educational structure at home; and
- Opportunity for the child to interact with non-disabled children.
Regression/recoupment rate is recognized across the nation as the standard in determining whether or not to provide ESY. However, districts must not limit their policies to documented regression/recoupment. Instead, the case law indicates a need for the policy to allow for an extended school year based on the prediction of regression/recoupment problems and must always keep in mind that the decision whether to provide ESY for each student eligible for special education is a decision which should be made based on the unique characteristics of the individual student. Prediction of regression/recoupment problems is a decision the IEP team might make based on evaluation information, evaluator opinion, and/or looking to the numerous factors, referenced above, from various court cases.
In developing a district ESY policy, we suggest the avoidance of restrictive language that will:
Limit the length of the school year for a student with disabilities; Provide ESY only for specific categories of disabilities; Limit the duration or range of services available in an ESY program; and/or Limit eligibility to consideration of only one factor: i.e. documented regression/recoupment.
All of the legal requirements that apply to educational programs during the regular school year apply equally to ESY programs, including the least restrictive environment (LRE) requirement that children with disabilities be educated to the maximum extent appropriate with children who do not have disabilities. However, districts are not required to maintain the full continuum of placement options maintained for the regular school year. Districts are required to maintain those placement options which are necessary to implement a student's IEP.
In summary, when developing an ESY policy, a district must be cognizant of the compliance requirements for ESY which will be monitored by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Special Education Division:
- ESY must be considered, for all students with disabilities, by the IEP team;
- If ESY eligibility is predicated on regression/recoupment criteria, documented and/or predicted regression/recoupment must be considered;
- Whether a student is to receive ESY is an IEP team decision; and
- The length, nature, and type of ESY services must be determined on an individual basis by the IEP team.
For more information, check your state website for criteria and guidelines!