School’s Out for Summer–But What About ESY?

By now, everyone is past quarantine fatigue and wondering when life can return to some kind of normalcy. For those students with extended year services (ESY), that return could be sooner than anticipated. On Sunday, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) issued its guidelines for ESY. Among them is one that schools should use their “best efforts” to provide as many in-person special education services as they can to the students who need it the most. (That group includes those who with substantial disabilities who have experienced substantial regression, those receiving multiple services, and students who need more support to successfully re-enter in the fall.) Social distancing and sanitizing protocols should remain in place in the classrooms, including the wearing of masks, and groups may not be larger than 10 students and two staff members. And services can be provided at home if it is more practical.

In New Hampshire, the governor issued an emergency order on May 26 that directs all school districts to hold an IEP meeting by the end of this month for each child, for the purposes of discussing ESY services, to be provided either in-person or remotely. This applies to all children on IEPs, regardless of whether they currently receive ESY services. That order also requires districts to hold IEP meetings within the first 30 days of the 2020-21 school year to consider whether the student should receive compensatory services for any services not provided during the school closures.

The direction from both states is very encouraging and shows the value they place on providing services to the students who need it most. More important, it also does not exempt districts from using COVID-19 as a reason to not provide necessary services.