six weeks in the middle of the summer, for about four days a week (usually excluding Fridays) and for three or four hours each morning. There is a very small percentage of students who require ESY during breaks other than the extended summer break, such as the winter or spring break. For those students, the services are often provided at the student’s home, or in community locations such as a library.


While most summer ESY programs have a certain number of days and hours that they operate, that does not mean all ESY students receive the same amount or type of services. It is common for students to attend two days of the four days each week for ESY; or all four days of the ESY week, but maybe for only an hour of the ESY program; or perhaps two of the four available weeks of ESY. The basic premise of IEPs, FAPE, and ESY remains the same – they must each be based on individual needs, as determined by the child’s IEP team. Thus, if a student is found eligible for ESY, then the next step is to decide what is needed for ESY for the student. That discussion will involve determining the goals, objectives, and amount of service for each area of identified ESY need during an IEP meeting.



When a student qualifies for ESY, the district must provide transportation to and from the location of the ESY services. This is generally door-to-door transportation via a special education bus. The district can choose to transport children via other methods such as a taxi cab or secure transport, or may even provide a mass transit pass for a student who is able to safely navigate and ride public transportation. Districts cannot require parents to transport their children to or from ESY services. However, a district can ask if a parent is willing to transport the child. If the parent is willing to provide the transportation then the district will provide “mileage in lieu” to the parent. What this means is that the parent provides the transportation to and from the ESY location and keeps a mileage log. After the parent submits the mileage log to the district, the district reimburses the parent for the mileage driven, at the standard mileage rate set by the General Services Administration and used by all federal and state agencies. The rate at this time is $0.535 per mile. Thus, whether the district actually transports a child to the ESY site or the parent provides the transportation, the cost of that transportation is borne by the district, not the parent.


Even if a child is found to be eligible for ESY, the parents can decide whether the child attends. States have compulsory attendance laws for school, meaning that students are required to attend school during the regular school year, unless there is an excused absence. Excused absences are generally for things like illness, appointments, family emergencies, or even pre-planned vacations from time to time. When students do not follow compulsory attendance laws, there are often consequences for students, and sometimes parents. ESY is different in that there is no compulsory attendance requirement. It is common for families to take vacations in the summertime, which is when almost all ESY services are offered. Thus, even if a student is determined eligible for an entire ESY program – all weeks offered, all days of the week, and all hours – the student is not required to attend. If a family is scheduled for vacation during a week or two of the time that ESY is being offered, the student can just attend for the ESY times that work for the family.


Every year, it is important to consider whether a child qualifies for ESY. This is an integral part of any IEP, and as such, must be reviewed at least annually. Once the decision has been made as to whether a child is eligible for ESY, the parent has valuable information to help shape the child’s activities during breaks. As circumstances change for families from year to year, attendance at ESY might also vary. For an eligible child, the ESY services offered one year might not fit with the family’s planning, but in another year might work well. Parents should examine and determine ESY eligibility every year to gain a better understanding of their child’s learning style and characteristics, regardless of whether the child will attend ESY in a particular year. Even if a child is eligible in a particular year for ESY, there is no guarantee that the same child will be eligible in another academic year. However, if a child shows a regression/recoupment pattern, or has the same predictive factors from year to year, it makes it more likely that the child will be eligible in future years.


If ESY was not discussed at your annual IEP meeting and/or you have not seen the actual data that tells you whether your child is eligible for ESY, an IEP meeting is needed before the end of the school year. Whether or not you would choose for your child to access ESY if qualified, the information gained in the ESY determination is critical for parents as they learn to understand and respond to their child’s individual learning style. The more knowledge you can gain about your child and their learning, the better you can advocate for your child.•


Diane Wiscarson worked her way through the special education system on behalf of her son, and in so doing, found her passion for helping other families navigate special education and the law. Since graduating from law school in 1996, and founding Wiscarson Law, she has helped thousands of Oregon and Washington families obtain appropriate services and placements for their special needs children in public schools and education service districts in both states. For more information call (503) 727-0202, or go to