The Insiders Guide to Education
A RITES blog by Learning Specialist and Education Advocate Saskia Nilsen, MSE
Your Summer Action Plan Part 3: Extended School Year (ESY)
What about ESY – Extended School Year?
Students with IEPs often qualify for Extended School Year (ESY), otherwise known as summer school or “learning camp” at my house. ESY is designed to continue any of the goals outlined in an IEP during a summer session. Towards the end of the year, parents should be told in a school meeting or through the mail whether or not their child meets the criteria for summer school. The criteria are not limited to academic needs; they may also include continuation of services like speech therapy and occupational therapy. For example, an autistic child performing academically at grade level should qualify for ESY in order to maintain learning routines and social curriculum. If your child qualifies for speech or OT but not ESY, arrangements should be made for these sessions to continue over the summer. If you think your child should qualify but you haven’t received information about ESY, be sure to contact your school to ask in writing what criteria were used to exclude your child from these services.
If your child will be attending ESY, it is safe to assume the teacher may know very little about your child, even if they have read the IEP, so it will be your job to bring them up to speed quickly. I often make sure to drop off my child and introduce myself on the first day, leaving my phone number for any questions. I also write a note with the top 3 – 5 things a teacher needs to know, such as my child is gluten free, my child will not go to the bathroom unless taken there, or please do not ask my child to read in front of the class. If ESY is in a different location than your child’s normal school, it is an especially key for younger kids to have an advanced tour or at least go play on the playground before ESY starts. Making sure your child feels comfortable at the start of ESY with the teacher, location and peer group will help ensure a much more productive use of the short summer session.
Parents do have the right to provide similar services privately over the summer and opt out of ESY. Parents sometimes make this choice because most ESY programs run from 2-4 days a week in the morning for 4-6 weeks, which can exclude these kids from attending most summer camps or going on family vacations. Instead, they enroll the student in fun camps in the morning and private services in the afternoon. Most health insurance companies will cover certain therapies not covered during the school year in the summer. If you are not sure if ESY is the best route for your child, consider discussing other options with the school team and calling your health insurance to see what they will cover.
In the next part in our Summer Action Plan series, we’ll talk about Summer Educational Camps for Fun and Learning.