Guidance on the Delivery of Extended School Year (ESY) Services to Students with Disabilities – June 2020
As part of the State’s multi-stage approach to a responsible and strategic economic restart and recovery from COVID-19, Governor Murphy announced that on June 15, 2020, New Jersey will enter Stage Two of The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health.
In the coming weeks, the State will modify restrictions on certain businesses and activities, with adherence to strict health and safety guidelines. Among the Stage Two phased-in activities is the operation of in-person summer camps that “provide daily multi-hour programming for youths” (Executive Order 149 (EO 149) (2020)). Permissible summer programming includes educational programs run by school districts, charter or renaissance schools (hereinafter “school districts”), and receiving schools, such as Extended School Year (ESY) programs, traditional credit recovery, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, migrant education, and any additional summer learning opportunities that school districts may choose to offer to address learning loss and prepare students for the next school year.
Recognizing the educational and socioemotional value to students and educators of resuming in-person instruction, school districts and receiving schools may conduct summer educational programming in-person, including ESY, as authorized by EO 149, on or after July 6, 2020. The New Jersey Department of Health’s New Jersey COVID-19 Youth Summer Camp Standards are applicable to all summer programs operated by school districts and receiving schools, including ESY. School districts and receiving schools should determine locally how best to comply with the Youth Summer Camp Standards while continuing to meet the needs of their students. These standards only apply to summer programs. The NJDOE, in conjunction with the Department of Health, will provide further information on the 2020-2021 school year shortly.
If a school district or receiving school determines that it would not be possible to meet summer program goals through in-person summer programming in accordance with the NJDOH standards, the school district may conduct summer programming, including ESY for students with disabilities, remotely or by a combination of remote and in-person instruction. In some cases, districts may be able to conduct in-person evaluations to determine eligibility for special education, reevaluations, small group interventions and/or related services in person in accordance with NJDOH standards while delivering other ESY services remotely. Districts may choose to provide some ESY services through home instruction in accordance with existing regulations. In all cases, the NJDOE reminds districts to consider issues concerning educational equity, including access to technology and the rights of students with disabilities and their families under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Please note that pursuant to EO 149, if school districts wish to operate such modified in-person programs, or a combination of in-person and remote programs, the district must submit an attestation to the NJDOH no later than 24 hours prior to the anticipated opening date, attesting that they will follow all applicable health and safety standards.
Determining the Need for Summer Services Resulting from Closing Schools for In-Person Instruction
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and New Jersey’s state special education regulations define ESY services as “special education and related services provided to a student with a disability beyond the normal school year in accordance with the student’s IEP at no cost to the parent.” ESY services are intended to assist students with maintaining skills learned when an interruption in educational programming causes the student to regress and recoupment is not expected in a reasonable length of time.
Each student’s IEP team determines if ESY services are needed. In accordance with the guidance issued by the NJDOE and the United States Department of Education, student IEPs that currently include ESY services should be implemented to the greatest extent possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, school districts may offer summer learning opportunities for all students to address learning loss resulting from the transition to remote instruction. A student’s IEP team may also consider whether a student would benefit from these opportunities with supports, accommodations and/or modifications, as appropriate.
If an IEP team determines that a student would benefit from summer services due to the impact of the pandemic, the team may convene virtual or in-person meetings in accordance with Executive Order 107 to determine the need for these services. Alternatively, the IEP team may agree to address the provision of summer services by developing a written document to amend or modify the student’s IEP. Whether or not the IEP team convenes a meeting, districts must ensure that proper written notice is provided to the student’s parent(s)/guardian(s) if the IEP team has proposed changes to the student’s IEP, including the type and frequency of summer services to be provided to the student.
Disagreements About ESY Determinations
If a student’s parent(s)/guardian(s) disagrees with the IEP team’s proposed type or frequency of ESY or summer services, the parent(s)/guardian(s) may pursue dispute resolution options, such as mediation conferences and/or due process hearings in order to resolve the disagreement. Additionally, a student’s parent(s)/guardian(s) may seek dispute resolution if the student’s IEP team determines the student does not require ESY services. More information on how to resolve disagreements and parental rights under IDEA is available at https://www.nj.gov/education/specialed/form/prise/.
Information about the impact of COVID-19 on students with disabilities is available on the NJDOE COVID-19 website at: www.nj.gov/education/covid19/. Additionally, staff from the NJDOE Office of Special Education and the Office of Special Education Policy and Dispute Resolution are available as resources to support districts, educators, and families. More information about the NJDOE Offices of Special Education is available at: https://www.state.nj.us/education/specialed/.