For some students in Warren County, the school year ended last week.
A group of students participated in the Extended School Year (ESY) program at Warren Area Elementary Center and Warren Area High School for three weeks in July.
"It is a wonderful program," Director of Special Education Diane Martin said. "It has been very interesting to me to have experienced and worked with our students with special needs. ESY has developed and provided various levels of services and instruction."
Among other benefits, the program helps students retain information through the summer that they might otherwise lose due to the three-month interruption of instruction.
"Every student with a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must be considered for ESY services," Martin said. "The 'target group' consists of those with severe emotional disturbances, autism, moderate and severe levels of intellectual disabilities, or multi-handicaps."
"Special education supervisors provided planning," Martin said. "Support was also completed by our outstanding special education supervisors and administrative support team at the central office."
"Lessons were well planned by our teachers allowing for motivating activities throughout the sessions," Martin said. "Para-professional support was provided in each class along with supplemental support in speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy and any other identified areas in each student's individualized education plan (IEP)."
The program also accommodated students with particular technology needs. Martin said communications technology was available as was equipment for students who need assistance with writing.
Martin credited Sandy Wilks and Ellen Koontz in particular with working throughout the school year to plan and prepare for ESY 2012. But it was a collaborative effort. "All members of our special education department worked to make sure ESY 2012 was a huge success," Martin said.
An analysis of how much a student will lose over the summer and how long it will take to make up for that loss goes into the consideration of whether a student is eligible for the program. "Several factors should be considered when making eligibility determination," Martin said. "One standard is the regression/recoupment analysis which considers the amount of regression a student experiences as a result of an interruption in educational services with the amount of time required to regain the prior level of skill."
Eligibility for ESY is made by each student's IEP team, she said. That determination must be discussed at each annual IEP review meeting.
Students who were in the program one year are not automatically eligible the next. "Eligibility determination for ESY services is made on the present needs of the student," Martin said.
There were about 76 students in the program this year. They attended classes for three hours a day for 15 days.
"We had 10 classes at various grade levels and programs," Martin said. "We had 10 special education teachers, but also had an occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech and language pathologist, and an assistive technology coordinator. We had about 12 para-educators working with our students."
ESY is not a new program; it has been in the district for more than 30 years.
Federal IDEA funding was used for the program.
Transportation was provided to and from the Warren campus and the students ate courtesy of the summer lunch program at WAEC.