In New York State, students are entitled to a public school education until the end of the school year in which they turn 21. Although most students graduate within four years, students with disabilities often require additional time to acquire the skills they need to be successful. However, for many special education students it was difficult or impossible to engage in remote learning or adapt to online lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic. These students essentially lost a year of education.
A bill that Santabarbara helped pass in the State Assembly was signed into law and will now offer special education students an opportunity to return to school to complete their Individualized Education Program (IEP) or continue their education until turning 23 years old — whichever is sooner. Beginning in September, students who recently turned 21 and have “aged out” of K-12 education may be provided the opportunity to enroll in the 2022-23 school year to complete their education. This includes students who are deaf or hard of hearing, students who have visual impairments, students who have multiple disabilities and some that cannot use computers independently.
Many of these students were unable to receive important services defined in their Individualized Education Plans and that the State has an obligation to provide. These plans are unique to each special education student and outline the services and supports for speech, visual, hearing and a number of other learning disabilities. Many of the one-on-one services in each plan, including occupational and physical therapy, simply could not be effectively provided online. The Board of Regents and the State Education Department are strongly encouraging schools and school districts to allow these students to attend the 2022-23 school year. Parents and families who qualify for this should contact their child’s principal, district administrator or pupil personnel office with questions and concerns.
“We must do everything possible, individually and collectively, to ensure our most vulnerable students are not left behind and given the support and opportunities they deserve despite these challenging times,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Chair of the New York State Assembly’s Sub-Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorders. “Although most schools adapted to online education during the pandemic, many special education students were unable to engage in remote learning or to adapt to online lessons. For some it meant losing the last year of education they were entitled to.” Santabarbara added, “As back-to-school season approaches, it is important to note this adjustment for this upcoming school year to help ensure every student has the opportunity to learn and complete their education.”