Extended School Year (ESY) that elusive process that leaves us scratching our heads

Extended school year (ESY) was first established in federal law by the Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1997 (IDEA ’97).

While ESY services were to be a part of the planning for students prior to 1997 this requirement was drawn from case law. IDEA ’97 didn’t create new standards for ESY instead brought together well-established case law in the area. IDEA 2004 retained the same ESY requirements as IDEA ’97.

A central issue in FAPE is the IEP team’s determination of what services are appropriate. The process used in developing the IEP ensures that students with disabilities have appropriate education goals within the IEP. The planning for the goals is based on appropriate evaluation, to accommodate their unique instructional needs and that these needs are met in appropriate learning environments. The IEP process ensures that student with disabilities receive an appropriate education. A major issue regarding appropriate education centers on if the educational program is sufficient to provide meaningful educational benefit. The concept of benefit is a central point in consideration during the determination of needed services as a part of the IEP process.

The IEP team examines a student’s present level of performance or skill development, as well what might be needed for the student to progress beyond that level if provided with an effective program. The critical question that each IEP team must ask regarding ESY services is whether the learning that occurred during the regular school year will be significantly jeopardized if ESY services are not provided. Reasons why ESY services may be needed vary from student to student. For some students the issue may center on regression of social, behavioral, communication, academic, or self-sufficiency skills during interruptions in instruction. (This is the most commonly cited reason given by districts for why a student should or should not receive ESY). However, it is not the only reason for the need to receive ESY.

DREDF, a National Disability Rights Organization has the most comprehensive list of potential reasons ESY might be consider. Among these are two that may make a difference in how parents ask if their child is benefitting from their educational placement. It is important to consider that there are students that may experience losses because they reach a critical learning stage or concept and the break at the end of a school year may cause irreparable loss of that learning opportunity. For some students routine is paramount in helping them maintain skills that support continued placement in the least restrictive environment (LRE). Such continuity in learning can only happen through the use of ESY services. Additional information on reasons for ESY can be found at http://dredf.org/mail-se/2012/february/Extended-School-Year-Services.html

The determination of whether a student with a disability needs ESY services must be made on an individual basis and made by the IEP team. Districts may not have restrictive policies based on disability category, age, one specific reason for providing ESY, one type of setting, or an arbitrary length of time (by week, hour, or day) based on standards beyond that of the needs of the individual student.

Parents, students, and school staff should plan together and answer the questions regarding student needs. This may be:

Has the student demonstrated difficulty in regaining skills after breaks in service/ If so how long do they typically take to regain those skills?

Is (student) finally gaining a skill that he or she didn’t have before? Is that new found skill apt to be lost or irrepealably delayed because of a break in services?

Does (student) have routines that are critical to helping them stay in program, on task, or within the current environment? Will time away from this structure cause difficulties or deny the student FAPE?

ESY can also include Related Services that are needed to support the learning needs of the student. When considering the needs of students some points to remember include:

Remember, ESY services are to maintain skills already acquired, not to learn new skills that would be a nice side benefit.

ESY is not the same as summer school, but some summer school programs could satisfy ESY requirements.

Not all goals on the IEP need to be addressed during ESY nor do you need a new IEP for ESY services. The purpose is to continue progress toward already established goals.

A student who receives ESY services one year does not automatically guarantee he or she will be eligible for ESY the following year. All students with disabilities must be considered for ESY services at least annually.

Whether your child/student has received ESY in the past, it is important to know reasons why he or she may or may not qualify this year. Decisions regarding ESY need to take place early enough so that if there is disagreement between parents and schools, the procedural safeguards and protections can be put into place and resolved so as not to deny or delay services in the event they are deemed appropriate.

Understanding Extended School Year (ESY)

What is Extended School Year?

Extended school year is helpful in determining whether a student who qualifies for special education services has received a Free Appropriate public education for the school year. It can be confusing on what establishes ESY and who qualifies for the services.

One of the many questions that come up is: “Will the student’s progress during the school year be impacted if an educational program is not provided during the summer?”  Hopefully this article will provide some understanding on Extended School Year services for your student.

ESY is special education and related services provided past the regular 180-day school year.  Extended school year is not the same as summer school. The student’s IEP team determines (which includes the parent) eligibility for the ESY services.  The services are provided according to goals, related services and other supports that are written in the students current IEP.   ESY is provided at no cost to the parents, the services can vary in the amount of time,intensity, and the need of related services.

ESY is intended to address the student’s critical life skills, assist students with disabilities whose skills are emerging, maintaining specific IEP goals in order for the student to benefit educationally.

How and when is eligibility determined?    WAC 392-172A-02020

All students on an IEP are considered for ESY services annually and the IEP meeting should be held timely in case the student does not qualify this will allow parents time to implement their rights.  Extended School Year is established individually and is not based on: Category; Disability; or placement.  During the school year the IEP team should collect and maintain quantitative and qualitative data to assist in the determination for services

The IEP team (which includes the parent) most often will have a guide or document for data collection, observations, and other information that address:

Regression recoupment:

Regression is the loss of critical life skills;

IEP goals for critical life skills:

Progress toward IEP goals

Emerging skills


Impact and severity of disability

Any Special Circumstances:

Regression recoupment is not the sole basis for providing ESY, all students disabled or non-disabled can regress during the school breaks.

How is ESY implemented?

The IEP team will determine (which includes the parent) the amount of services, which goals will be worked on, the location, the amount of services and for how long, and the related services that will be provided.  There is a possibility that a student may only receive related services for their extended school year services.

How are parents notified of Extended School Year Services?

When the IEP team completes the determination, the school district will give prior written notice to parents prior to ESY services being implemented.

Is Transportation provided for my student to and from Extended School Year?


Extended School Year and Least Restrictive Environment

Extended School Year services are to be provided in the least restrictive environment, however school districts are not expected to develop new programs to implement ESY services.  The IEP team makes sure that services are available to meet the needs of each student with a disability who will qualify for ESY services.

What if you disagree with the Extended School year services for my student?

Parents are active and valued IEP team members when there is disagreement all team members should work in partnership to resolve the disagreement.  If there is no agreement parents are provided their procedural safeguards (Parent Rights) that list other alternatives available to them.  To download a copy of your procedural safeguards go to: http://www.k12.wa.us/SpecialEd/Families/Rights.aspx