NYC special education recovery services program to be scaled back this fall

 

In response to pandemic disruptions, New York City officials required every school to offer special education services last year outside regular hours to any family who wanted them.

But that won’t be the case this coming school year, education officials said. Instead, the education department is vowing to determine what extra instruction or therapies children may need on an “individual basis” — decisions that will be left to the teams that set students’ individualized education programs, also known as IEPs.

Extra small group instruction or “related services” such as physical and occupational therapy, may be provided after school, on Saturdays, during the school day, or through a voucher for students the city determines need extra help, officials said.

The city is also expanding a new program for students with significant sensory issues, which has been popular with some parents.

It will launch at 70 sites this fall, up from 10.

The education department is setting aside $100 million for those extra services, down from roughly $200 million last year, according to city officials.

Last year’s recovery program was delayed for months after the school year started. Schools struggled to attract staff to work the extra hours and the vast majority of students did not participate, though officials have yet to provide a final tally. The program earned mixed reviews from parents and educators.

Students with disabilities have a legal right to “compensatory services” if their school does not provide all of the specialized instruction or therapies included on their IEP. And a significant share of students with disabilities missed out on special education instruction or therapies that were difficult or impossible to provide during remote learning or as staff were stretched thin.

The city’s promise to assess whether students with disabilities need these extra compensatory services could signal that they will be easier to get without going through that cumbersome process, though it’s unclear how generous the city will be in recommending additional support.

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