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PA  ED LAW CENTER

ELC-PA, 801 Arch Street, Suite 610
Philadelphia, PA 19107
215-238-6970.

Pittsburgh office:
ELC-PA, 1901 Law & Finance Bldg.,
429 Fourth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219
412-391-5225 E-Mail: elc@elc-pa.org

Extended School Year (ESY) Programs

Last year, under pressure from the Education Law Center and the federal Office of Special Education Programs, the State's ESY regulations were substantially amended. Some of the most important changes/clarifications were that: ESY is not limited to children with "severe" disabilities (although these children are most likely to qualify). A child can qualify because of a "regression/recoupment" problem, or because of "other factors" that make it unlikely that the student, "will attain or maintain skills and behavior relevant to established IEP goals and objectives." "Retrospective data" (that is, documented past history) on regression and recoupment are not required for a child to qualify. Other evidence that can be relied upon in making ESY determinations includes reports by parents of negative changes, or observations and opinions by educators, parents and others. Last summer, we received a number of complaints - late ESY eligibility determinations, districts that failed to develop individualized ESY IEPs, and others. For the past several months, we have been working with the PA Department of Education to develop a Basic Education Circular that would prevent some of these problems, and eliminate some widely held misconceptions about ESY programs. That BEC has just been issued, and ELC will send copies on request. ELC also has a new "Fact Sheet" on ESY programming. Some of the "highlights" of the BEC are: All children with disabilities must be considered for ESY eligibility at their annual IEP meetings, not just children with severe disabilities; IEP team reviews for ESY eligibility for children with severe emotional disturbances, autism, moderate and severe levels of retardation or multiple disabilities must be completed by February 28 of each school year, and the Notice of Recommended Assignment (NORA) issued to parents (with program specifics if eligible) no later than March 31. Since this BEC is just being issued in early February, some districts may legitimately have difficulty convening these IEP meeting by the end of the month. This BEC should, at least, give families substantial leverage in getting the meetings scheduled ASAP. Whenever a family asks that a child be considered for ESY eligibility, an IEP team meeting must be convened, and the decision conveyed to the parents via a NORA. Negative decisions can be challenged through the procedural safeguard system. ESY programs are not limited to self-help and basic skills. Academic and vocational goals can also be part of an ESY program. Although most ESY programs are designed to make up for the long summer break, ESY programs can include weekends or even continuous programming. A child's ESY program cannot be changed over the parents' objection and request for a hearing until all due process procedures have been completed. If fully understood and implemented, these new regulations, and the new BEC, will be a big help to families trying to get ESY services for their children. Janet Stotland, Education Law Center - PA

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