Summer is on its way. This has been a very unusual past 13 months. Summer for kids who have exceptional needs can be tricky to navigate. Some kids get ESY – Extended School Year. This is separate from any COVID-19 provisions in place.
This year, Governor Cooper has signed a bill related to the Summer Learning Choice Program (SLCP). This is not the same as ESY. There’s also compensatory education for students who did not receive the services they required during the school year but have an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).
That’s a lot of acronyms and a lot of knowledge you are expected to have, and, often, schools are learning this as they go along with the families because everything is a little different this year in a year where flexibility and grace is required on all sides.
So, how do you navigate these programs to determine if your child meets the criteria for any of these? If they don’t, or if you don’t wish to utilize these, what can you do over the summer to ensure that your child is not losing the knowledge they gained this year?
Extended School Year (ESY)
This is always available. During the annual IEP meeting, the team will decide if your child needs ESY. If it cannot be decided at the meeting (usually because it is too early in the year to know for sure if your child will need it), it will be decided at the end of the school year in a separate IEP meeting. The criteria that your child must meet to be eligible is that the team decides that your child may regress or does regress during school breaks or that gains manifested during the school year will be lost or jeopardized during the break. This is a part of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and is very child-specific. Note that just because your child receives ESY, it does not mean that they are NOT eligible for SLCP! ESY is based on your child’s IEP goals, not on progression in classes.
Summer Learning Choice Program (SLCP)
This is a special program for the 2020-2021 school year, just passed into law by Governor Cooper in April. All children at risk of failure are permitted to receive summer school in person for specific subjects and for enrichment. It is for grades K through 8. You do not have to accept this if your school offers it, but your child’s school must offer it if your child is “at risk”, as defined by G.S. 115C-105.41(a):
…students who are at risk for academic failure and who are not successfully progressing toward grade promotion and graduation, beginning in kindergarten. Identification shall occur as early as can reasonably be done and can be based on grades, observations, diagnostic and formative assessments, State assessments, and other factors, including reading on grade level, that impact student performance that teachers and administrators consider appropriate, without having to await the results of end-of-grade or end-of-course tests.
Compensatory Education (CE)
If your school district did not offer Free Appropriate Public Education as defined by your child’s IEP, your child may be eligible for CE. There has to be evidence that there was failure by the school to meet your child’s IEP service goals or failed to identify your child. Compensatory Education does not preclude your child from participation in SLCP or ESY (if eligible).
None of the Above
Say none of these are an option for your child for any reason. What are some good ideas for this summer?
As always, I’m going to point to the most child-centered and individualized approach. Does your child struggle with routines? Make sure there is one! Although kids love playing video games and want their down time to simply play, a lot of kids (even ones who do not have exceptional needs) struggle with a lot of free time. Adults are the same way. When we don’t have a place to be or something to fill our time, what happens? Do we manage okay or do we struggle? I think for most people, you want some kind of structure to your days.
This can be ensuring appropriate wake up and sleeping times. This can be ensuring that you’re dressed in “people clothes”. This can be getting out of the house. For some kids, it can be pretty vague, or the child is happy to drive their schedules themselves. For many, though, especially kids who have exceptional needs or are younger, they’re going to need more guidance than that.
Many summer programs are open now, and now is a good time to start signing up if you feel safe. Ask about their COVID policies and how they are keeping the kids safe. Some programs have continued to run aftercare programs or daycare programs throughout the pandemic and may have more experience than others at keeping the kids socially distanced and masked. Ask about what you can do if your child struggles with masks.
I can provide individualized help at any point, so feel free to give me a call or send an email. There are many programs available throughout the state to help you and your child this summer.