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Covid-19 Recovery Services and ESY: Can They Help Your Child Rebound After the Covid 19 Crisis?

Updated: Apr 18, 2022

"Ask the Advocate" is our forum to bring you answers to questions that are timely and important to families of students with disabilities.

This summer many parents are scrambling to help their child after the Covid 19 global pandemic disrupted education. Lorraine Hightower, Dyslexia Advocate and Consultant, answers your top question about this hot topic.

As we wrap up this tumultuous year, many parents and special education teams are finding that students have not been able to make meaningful progress towards their IEP goals during the pandemic. Parents have heard that Covid-19 Recovery Services are being offered to some students. Can you tell us more about what these services are?

It has been a tumultuous year indeed! One that has been difficult for everyone in education. Despite the difficulties that school systems have encountered in providing ongoing education during the pandemic, the fact remains that according to the US Department of Education, if a school district “continues to provide educational opportunities to the general student population during a school closure, the school must ensure that students with disabilities also have equal access to the same opportunities, including the provision of FAPE...and schools must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability can be provided the special education and related services identified in the student’s IEP developed under IDEA, or a plan developed under Section 504.”

Unfortunately, some students did not have equal access to the same opportunities or the special education and related services identified in their IEPs, as directed above by the US Dept. of Education. Covid 19 Recovery Services are now being offered to make good on that obligation. Covid 19 Recovery Services are any services, agreed upon by the IEP team, so that the student can receive additional specially designed instruction in an effort to close their expanding achievement gap due to the Covid 19 global pandemic. These services can help your child rebound after the educational crisis that happened as a result of the pandemic.

How are Covid-19 Recovery Services different from ESY?

There are a few main distinctions between Covid 19 Recovery Services and Extended School Year (ESY). Take a look at our chart below to understand a few key differences.

Because knowledge is power, I suggest that parents take the time to carefully read the guidance documents issued by your state’s department of education for each of these programs. If you are in Virginia, you can follow these links to find the guidance document for Extended School Year and Covid 19 Recovery Services.

How do I know which of these options is the right type of specially designed instruction for my child?

When deciding which option is right for your child, I recommend you think about their present levels of performance. In other words, how your child is performing on school tasks and assessments right now. If your child is not making progress towards their IEP goals or is not meeting grade level standards due to a lack of services during the pandemic, you may want to request Covid 19 Recovery Services. Covid 19 Recovery Services have been developed to provide the support special education students need to make progress towards their goals, not just maintain current progress for learned skills. If your child has made progress this year, but you are concerned that they will not be able to maintain those skills over the summer break, then ESY may be the better option for your child.

I suggest that you take a look at your child’s grades, test scores, progress reports as well as your own observations of skills over the past school year to determine if you think your child needs to make progress towards their goals or maintain their skills. Then, you can choose the appropriate program to request for your child. In some cases, children may meet the criteria for both Covid 19 Recovery and ESY services.

If a parent has been offered a summer school program for their child, does that mean that their child would be receiving Covid 19 Recovery Services?

Probably not. It has been made clear by the Virginia Department of Education and the US Dept. of Education that both ESY and Covid 19 Recovery Services are separate services and not the same as summer school. Summer school can be offered to general education students and special education students. It is not designed to address an individual student’s unique needs.

While there are a number of differences between ESY and Covid 19 Recovery Services (as you can see in the chart above) one thing that they have in common is both services are to be individualized and offer specially designed instruction based on your child’s unique needs and goals. A child may receive Covid 19 Recovery Services or ESY over the summer, but this should not be referred to as summer school.

Another important distinction between summer school, ESY or Covid 19 Recovery Services is that summer school is only offered during the summer for a set period of time. Because ESY and Covid 19 Recovery Services are individualized for the needs of the student, they may extend into the regular school year. The goals of these services are to maintain progress (in the case of ESY) or make up for a lack of progress (in the case of Covid 19 Recovery Services) and therefore cannot be assigned an arbitrary end date. The end date of these programs is dependent upon your child’s needs.

Parents should clarify with their child’s school team exactly what service is being offered. Once the service that is most appropriate for your child is agreed upon, be sure that it is noted in your child’s IEP. If you request a particular program and that request is denied, be sure to ask the team for a Prior Written Notice (PWN) of that denial to keep for your records. If you aren’t clear on what a PWN is or why it is important, please take a listen to our short explanation in this video.

It sounds like Covid 19 Recovery Services can help many students make strides in progress after this difficult year. How can parents request these services?

Eligibility for Covid 19 Recovery Services is an IEP team decision. In Virginia, parents are a full member of the IEP team and can call an IEP team meeting to discuss their child’s eligibility for these services at any time. Parents will be most successful at this meeting if they have evidence to prove their child’s need for these services. Here’s what I suggest parents do to request these services and prepare for the meeting discussing eligibility for the services…

  1. Make your request for Covid 19 Recovery Services in writing to your child’s Case Manager or school’s special education designee.

  2. Gather information that shows your child’s lack of progress towards their IEP goals throughout the past school year. This may include:

    1. Quarterly progress reports

    2. District & Statewide performance assessments

    3. Report cards with teacher comments on areas of need

    4. Work samples that reflect your child’s progress towards their goals

    5. Parent observations and records

  3. Gather information about your child’s performance prior to the pandemic as well as any information that can be gathered since your child returned to school, if that applies. The team will consider pre pandemic, during pandemic, and post pandemic performance data to make a decision.

  4. Carefully read and understand the Covid 19 Recovery Services guidance that has been provided by your state’s department of education. Virginia’s guidance document can be found here.

  5. Meet with your child’s IEP team to collaboratively decide on a program of services that fit your child’s individual needs and allows them to make up for their lack of progress towards their goals due to the pandemic.

My goal is to empower parents with the knowledge and tools they need to advocate successfully for their child. I know that step by step guidance, like what I have laid out above, can transform parents from bystanders in their children’s education to active participants and change makers!

Parents who are prepared with a plan of action are more successful in advocating for their child.

That is just a fact! So I have created a free guide to help you be more successful at your child’s next IEP meeting. Please download our FREE 4 Steps to Success! IEP Meeting Checklist to create your plan and change your child’s future.


Do you need help creating a plan for your dyslexic child’s education or advocating to get an effective plan in place? Are you ready to see your child learn and thrive in school? If so, I can help! I have helped countless families transform the lives of their children, and create more peace and harmony at home.

While it isn’t always easy, it CAN happen, and I will support you every step of the way. Find out how I can help your family during a complimentary Discovery Call. I would love to talk with you about your child and how I might make a difference for them and your family!


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