Extended School Year: Summer Options for Students with Disabilities
Q: My son has a learning disability and I’m worried his reading skills will suffer over the summer. Is there anything that I can ask the school to do to help?
A: Yes. You can ask your son’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team for a meeting to discuss whether Extended School Year (ESY) services would be appropriate. Extended School Year services are services offered primarily over the summer months to allow students with disabilities to continue to work on IEP goals and objectives and areas of documented deficits. If the IEP tea determines that the ESY services are appropriate, the school districts will provide these services at no cost to parents.
Q: Are all students with disabilities entitled to ESY services?
A: No. The student’s IEP team must decide whether he or she is eligible for services. Often this meeting is held in the spring after data has been collected concerning the child’s needs.
In determining whether a student is eligible for ESY services, school districts primarily rely on a “regression/recoupment” standard. This standard looks at whether a student will experience significant regression over a period of time when educational instruction is not offered, such as during the summer months, and whether that student will be able, within a reasonable period of time, to recoup his or her skills once instruction resumes. Many students with disabilities are unable to recoup their skills within a reasonable time once school resumes in the fall. In such a case, ESY services are likely appropriate and should be offered. Other factors the team should consider include the nature and severity of the child’s disability, whether a child would fail to achieve IEP goals or emerging skills if instruction were interrupted, and whether critical life skills would be jeopardized without summer instruction.
Q: If my child qualifies for ESY services, what services are available?
A: Like all special education decisions, the student’s individual needs dictate the program and services to be provided. Options include, but are not limited to, academic support services to maintain skills in areas such as math and reading; home instruction or consultation to provide parents support and materials to prevent regression; individual or group instruction; recreational services to maintain IEP skills; and services during vacations. The offer of recreational programs or summer camps as ESY services has been debated over the years. In Ohio, if a recreational program has been deemed necessary by the child’s IEP team to address physical or social skills deficits, then the school must provide the program.
Q: How can I convince the school that my son needs ESY?
A: If your son’s school believes that he does not need ESY services, ask the IEP team to provide you with the data used to make that decision. Collect your own data at home before and after extended weekends, breaks and vacations concerning your son’s academic, social, behavioral or functional needs. You may also want to ask your private tutors, physicians, or therapists to provide a written report and recommendations concerning ESY. Share this additional information with the IEP team to create a strong foundation for your request for summer services. If your son’s school continues to refuse to provide ESY services, you may seek an administrative review, request mediation from or file a complaint with the Ohio Department of Education, or request an impartial due process hearing on the denial.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Kerry M. Agins of the special education firm, Agins & Gilman LLC.