Extended School Year (ESY) Essentials

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winter-spring newsletter

This article was originally published February 2018, updated January 2020 and reviewed January 2024.

ESY graph

What is ESY?

Extended School Year services, or ESY, are special education and related services, such as therapies, provided to a child with a disability when the school or preschool program is not normally in session, for example, during summer or holiday breaks.

Some students with disabilities lose basic skills and take a long time to get them back once school begins again. The purpose of ESY services is to prevent this loss of skills. ESY does not support the learning of new skills. The specific services provided will vary according to each student’s individualized needs, for example:

  • — A student may need math and reading instruction as well as speech therapy
  • — A student may need social skills instruction and behavioral intervention
  • — A student may need only social skills instruction
  • — A student may be “on the cusp” of learning a new skill and needs ESY services so that learning is not interrupted
  • — A student may not need any ESY servicesKey Point: "The purpose of ESY services is to prevent this loss of skills. ESY does not support the learning of new skills."

The IEP team may decide that the student will continue all the services received during the regular school year, or that the student will only receive a portion of service or one specific service. This decision is based on the needs of each student.

ESY is not—

  • — A day care or respite service
  • — A summer recreation program, even if it provides some educational benefit

Who can be eligible?

Preschoolers and school-aged children who have an IEP are eligible. The IEP team (Parents/Families are an integral part of the IEP team and are included on all decision making) must look at the data and determine if the student might need ESY. Every year at the IEP meeting, every IEP team must decide on eligibility for each student.

How do IEP teams make the decision?

  • → There is not a simple formula to decide which students qualify for ESY.
  • → While there are seven (7) criteria to be considered, students do not need to meet all 7 criteria for eligibility for ESY. (see criteria in image below)
  • → Determination about ESY is a TEAM decision and families are part of the decision-making.
  • → The IEP team should look at data about the student that has been collected by the school, family and/or others.
  • → ESY cannot be limited to one type of disability or type of service.

ESY Criteria

Timing of ESY determination for “target students”

If a student is identified as severely disabled (see ESY Criteria above), then decisions about ESY must be made by February 28th of each year and issue a Notice of Recommended Educational Placement (NOREP) to the parent no later than March 31st of each year. This date allows time for parents who may disagree with the decision about ESY to have enough time to exercise their rights to appeal the decision. If a parent is not sure whether their child meets the criteria, they can always request an IEP meeting to discuss ESY prior to February 28th.

What does it look like on an IEP?

key point: "Those goals that have been identified by the IEP team as 'ESY goals' should be noted as such on the IEP."A description of the factors used to determine eligibility must be included. Describe the goals, and if appropriate benchmarks, for the ESY program Goals are typically extensions of the current IEP goals. Those goals that have been identified by the IEP team as “ESY goals” should be noted as such on the IEP. New goals may be necessary to ensure that appropriate services are provided during the ESY period.

Where can a student receive ESY services?

The IEP team determines the appropriate placement for ESY. The IEP team must identify a setting that is the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for the student. This means that the team must consider opportunities for learning in settings with typical peers. During school breaks, there may not be a school-sponsored activity that provides for learning with typical peers. ESY can be in a non-educational setting if the IEP team determines that the student can receive necessary ESY services in that setting.

The  setting for ESY must also allow for teaching and practicing the skills in the IEP goals targeted for ESY. If the goals targeted for ESY are focused on vocational skills, then a teacher going to a summer job placement might provide ESY services. For a student who shows regression in social skills over a break, a speech therapist could provide instruction at a day camp with typical peers.  Other settings for ESY might include: tutoring, keyboarding class, camp socialization programs, or summer school.

Action Tips for Parents:

  • Don’t wait until late in the school year to discuss whether or not your child needs ESY services during the summer break. You can request an IEP meeting specifically to determine ESY eligibility for your child. Be sure to put this request in writing to the school principal or school district special education director and specify the purpose of the meeting. Make certain that important school personnel- those who know your child best- will attend the IEP meeting.
  • List all of the factors you think should be taken into consideration when determining your child’s need for ESY services. Refer to the types of information listed earlier to help compile your list. Take your list to the IEP team meeting. Remember that the determination should be based on a broad range of factors and an array of information.
    • Discuss ESY with your school well in advance, prior to any school break/ holiday- even if you already have it set in your IEP. For example, most families use the ESY at summer break (not limited to summer) so address this in December with your IEP TEAM.
    • The IEP TEA< should also be encouraged to take into consideration pervious history; accounting for any previous regression.
    • Organize records such as progress reports, clinics, or any other supporting data and school reports. Your own notes and documentation about progress, challenges and other information is data about your child that can be shared and discussed. You want this on hand to support the argument of regression in terms of failure to meet IEP objectives.

Special consideration for preschoolers:

Preschool early intervention programs often operate throughout the summer with more frequent, shorter breaks than the lengthy summer break. Many preschoolers who are sensitive to program interruption can tolerate these shorter breaks and can still make reasonable progress in their IEP goals. But if a preschooler cannot receive an appropriate education without ESY, she is entitled to the necessary additional services.

To learn more about ESY:

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