Pros and Cons of Extended School Year and Who It Benefits
As we pack up our classrooms and that last school bell rings, we all breathe a great big sigh of relief. Whether it was a year filled with challenges or overwhelming joy, we all feel like we have accomplished something and in some way, have helped our students inch closer towards their potential. We can all have our “feel good” moments, but now it is summer! Are you working at an ESY program? Have you recommended any of your students to attend ESY? Let’s talk about this for a bit.
Who will you recommend for Extended School Year services?
The first thing you must ask yourself is, “Will this student lose academic or life skills over an extended absence from school?” If the answer is “no”, then this student should not be recommended for ESY. However, if you have noticed a decline in skills, or an emphasized “catch up” period over breaks from school (ex. Winter Break/Spring Break), you and the student’s IEP team should consider recommending attending ESY to maintain previously taught skills. New skills are NOT introduced during ESY.
What do I do if the family declines ESY services?
Nothing. Once you and the student’s IEP team have provided information and recommendations, the final decision as to whether or not the student will actually attend the ESY program falls upon the student’s parents or guardians. No child will be penalized for not attending ESY, but your recommendations will be documented on the student’s IEP.
What about the summer and just having fun?
ESY programs generally include shortened school days. Most programs last about 4-5 hours and may be available only four days a week. While this still allows plenty of time for playing, participating in sports activities, attending therapy sessions, and just having some “down time”, it more than not reflects a school day. Students must wake up early and follow the same basic routine as during the school year.
Many special needs children crave routines. For them, having “free” time during the summer, can be just as stressful as adjusting to a new school for the summer. If structure and routine, as well as open learning opportunities, can be provided at home, then I may opt for that. For children with intensive behavior, social, or learning needs, I would most likely encourage ESY attendance.
Is it worth the time getting materials ready for a student when they may not even decide to attend?
Well, you just have to assume that he or she will attend. Gather materials that will help your student move forward with the IEP goals identified for ESY. Unless noted as such, don’t assign every single goal for ESY. Remember, the school day/week may be shorter and not every single IEP can be addressed in depth. My rule of thumb is, if it’s an activity or item that you have purchased with your own money, or one that you truly cherish for the benefits it brings to your students, do NOT send it to ESY. Too many times, activities are not returned in the same shape you left them. Send worksheets (dare I say), printables, workbooks, or other materials that your class doesn’t rely upon, or just can’t do without. More often than not, the ESY teaching staff bring their own materials, too.
How will I know if my students are placed in a “suitable” ESY classroom?
In most cases, you will not know in advance who the teacher is, but you will know the designated ESY school location months before. One of the hardest things I’ve encountered is when the team recommends a student who has a fair amount of social skills, but is placed in a classroom with more academically and socially challenged children. Remember, students may be recommended for ESY based on a regression in life skills or academic skills, and you will most likely have little input as to where the child is placed.
I’m really looking forward to summer, but I need the income. Should I apply to work at ESY?
Well, we all know that teachers income ranges can vary. If you are fortunate enough to be able to get through the summer without relying on the extra income, or if you have signed up for year round pay with your school district, then you may want to reconsider. No matter how much you love the kids, or teaching, or both, we all need a break from our daily teaching routine. While some may disagree with me (and that’s perfectly fine), teacher burnout rates are at an all-time high. To be honest, when that bell rang yesterday, I was more excited than I have ever been in my 20 years of teaching, to close the door and say “hello” to summer. So, in my opinion, if you can take the summer off to relax and have some “me” time, or spend time with your family, go right ahead. You’ll come back in the fall feeling refreshed and ready to take on new challenges!
ESY Pros and Cons Summary
As educators of special needs students, we and their families know what is best for each child’s social and academic development. If a parent dismisses the idea of ESY, find out why they feel that way. Listen with an open mind and be ready to offer some well-intentioned, data based advice. In our minds, summer goes hand-in-hand with fun-filled days and no school. Some parents may walk into the ESY classroom which their child has been assigned and be unhappy with the cognitive or social levels of classmates. Perhaps your ESY program will allow a student to attend only for the services they require over the summer, such as OT or Speech/Language Therapy. Make sure that during the IEP meeting when ESY services are addressed, that all questions are answered so parents will have a better idea of what to expect for both their child and from themselves.
Have a wonderful, safe, and enjoyable summer!
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