Extended School Year Services

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have provided guidance on "extended school year" (ESY) programs for children with special needs. ESY programs are described under state and federal special education requirements and have been further interpreted through case law and through advisories issued by the U. S. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

The following questions and answers provide the basic requirements for ESY programs as they proceed to implement these opportunities for children with special needs in Massachusetts.


1. Couldn't all children benefit from "extended year programs", not just children with special needs?

All children "regress"--lose progress, forget, and revert to previous behavior--to some extent between school years. It must be determined whether a child's regression would likely be substantial, and whether the child would require a greater than usual time to "recoup"--to get back to the level the child had achieved before a break in service.


2. What if a school district doesn't offer "summer school"?

ESY programs are not "summer school"; therefore, school districts cannot categorically refuse to consider ESY programs because districts do not offer "summer school" to all children.


3. At what point does a school district decide whether or not a child with special needs is eligible for ESY programming?

At least once annually the child's Team must consider the need for an extended school year program and record its determination on page 6 of the IEP. A Team's determination regarding the need for an ESY program must be made on an individual basis.


4. May the TEAM "wait and see" if a child experiences substantial regression during a break in service before it determines whether ESY services should be proposed?

No. The child's Team must not put off a determination to offer ESY programming until the end of a break in service (i.e., summer vacation). The Team must consider the need for such services prior to the beginning of the break in service by anticipating whether substantial regression and problems with recoupment will occur in the absence of ESY services. ESY programs should be a continuation of the education benefits that accrue to a child during the regular school year and should be consistent with the child's IEP goals and objectives addressed throughout the regular school year; however, they don't necessarily have to be the same services delivered at the same frequency as provided during the regular school year.


5. Which children are eligible for extended school year programs?

ESY programs may not be limited to children with special needs in certain program types (e.g., substantially separate settings) or to children with certain types of special needs. Decisions about ESY programs must be made on an individual basis, taking into consideration the unique needs of the child.


6. Must ESY services described on an IEP be provided at no cost to the child's parent(s)?

Yes.

7. May "recreation programs" be considered extended year programs?

Federal special education regulations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) do provide for "recreation programs" as related services. Therefore, an ESY program may consist of, or include, a recreation program. As with all special education services, educational goal(s) and objectives for a recreation program must be included in a child's IEP. Note, however, that state special education regulations indicate that camping or recreation programs provided solely for recreational purposes and with no corresponding IEP goals or specially designed instruction shall not be considered extended year programs.


8. How is the concept of "recoupment" used by a Team in determining the need for extended school year programming?

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education interprets a child's difficulties with "recoupment" to be an aspect of "significant regression". Specifically, significant regression and recoupment consist of the following interrelated elements:

(1) the loss of performance levels that were attained before a break in service,

(2) the child's limited learning rate, which lengthens the amount of time the child requires to review and/or relearn previously attained objectives, and

(3) the fact that the time for that child to accomplish such recoupment is greater than the period of time the school district allows all other children for review and/or relearning.


9. What other criteria should a Team apply in making a determination for needed ESY programming?

Any decision regarding needed ESY programming must take into account the child's history of significant regression and limited recoupment capability. In other words, a child's Team must look backward and forward when considering the need for ESY programming.

In addition to significant regression and/or limited recoupment, courts have set forth other ESY criteria to be applied by a Team, as follows:

the degree of the child's impairment

the parents' ability to provide structure at home

the child's rate of progress

the child's specific behavior and/or physical problems

the availability of alternative resources

the child's ability to interact with non-disabled children

the specific curricular areas in which the child needs continuing attention

the vocational and transition needs of the child

whether the service requested is "extraordinary" rather than usual in consideration of the child's condition

Only when all factors are considered together by the child's Team can a determination be made as to how much service will be offered.