2 keys for IEP teams planning extended school year services

ESY decisions must be made prior to the end of the regular school year
By: | April 14, 2021
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As the spring and summer breaks approach, IEP teams should account for the needs of students with disabilities and collect data to ensure that they receive appropriate extended school year (ESY) services if necessary.

Teams should keep in mind that decisions about ESY services are independent from any enrichment services the district offers to all students. Team members should know the difference between ESY programming and enrichment activities in general education, says Dana Welch, assistant director of special education for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

ESY is special education programming that extends beyond the traditional school year. Under settled authoritative case law, districts are required to provide ESY programming to IDEA-eligible students for whom it is appropriate, even if the district does not ordinarily provide summer school or other educational services outside the regular school year.

ESY decisions must be made prior to the end of the regular school year. The services must be provided only if a child’s IEP team determines, on an individual basis, that the services are necessary for the provision of FAPE to the child.


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ESY services must be documented in the student’s IEP, Welch said. The IEP team may also log goals to be addressed and services to be provided.

“We stress every year, but especially since last spring, that ESY is not the same as summer school enrichment offerings,” said Welch. “Summer school is designed to benefit all students, usually through regular curriculum enrichment activities, while ESY is specially designed instruction provided during breaks in the school year to mitigate regression in skills and reduce the amount of recoupment needed when school resumes.”

Currently, many school districts are considering offering enrichment programs to students who may have fallen behind due to classrooms being closed during the pandemic.

Enrichment activities include extracurricular socialization or friendship-building opportunities, says Geneva Jones, founder of Geneva Jones & Associates PLLC. She said such activities — including camps, clubs, recreational or art classes, and athletics—are aside from students’ ESY services and not related to their ESY goals.

Collect data

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to shutter in 2020, Welch’s office has emphasized the need to collect as much data as possible to make well-informed decisions and determine what is required to provide FAPE to students with disabilities.

Using the data as a frame of reference, she said, the IEP teams should make final ESY determinations.

“Throughout COVID, we have really pushed data collection in our weekly statewide Zoom meetings with special education directors and our monthly SPED To-Do Lists as the only way to make these important service decisions,” said Welch.

Johnny Jackson covers special education issues for LRP Publications.