Students receiving special education services during the regular school year may be entitled to special education services during the summer. School districts must provide eligible students “Extended School Year” (ESY) services, which is comparable to summer school. The purpose of ESY is to help students retain what they have learned during the school year. However, not all students are eligible for ESY, even if they receive special education services during the regular school year. Students are eligible only if ESY is necessary for them to receive a free and appropriate public education. This determination is made on an individual basis at a student’s IEP meeting. This means that the school district cannot limit ESY to particular categories of disability or unilaterally limit the types, amount, or duration of those services.
Under Pennsylvania law, a student’s IEP team must consider several factors as part of its ESY analysis:
- Whether the summer break will cause regression. In other words, whether the student’s skills or behaviors will decrease during the summer break.
- Whether the student has the ability to recoup – or regain – the skills she loses during the summer break.
- Whether the student’s difficulties with regression and recoupment make it unlikely that she will maintain the skills and behaviors outlined in her IEP goals.
- How much the student has mastered an important skill or behavior by the end of the school year.
- How important a skill or behavior is for the student to meet her IEP goals related to self-sufficiency.
- How much will the student’s withdrawal from the learning process interrupt her education.
- Whether the student’s disability is severe (such as autism, serious emotional disturbance, severe intellectual disability, or severe multiple disabilities).
In making the ESY determination, the IEP Team may rely on past progress reports, parents’ reports of negative changes, reports by outside service providers showing degenerative-type issues that are worsened by breaks in education, observations and opinions of people close to the student, and test results. There is no specific timeline for ESY determinations. The law requires only that the determinations be made in a timely manner. However, if the student’s disability is severe, the IEP review for ESY must take place by February 28th of each school year, and the NOREP must be issued by March 31st.
If parents disagree with the school’s recommendations for ESY, they can file for an expedited due process hearing.