NYC Rule Change Triples Special Ed Sessions Per Day

NEW YORK -

School-age students in New York City receiving special education services will now be allowed up to three sessions a day if they need it, as part of a series of policy changes in the Department of Education that have long been advocated by Agudath Israel.

Until now, students were generally limited to one session of Special Education Teacher Support Services — popularly known as P3 sessions — per day, for a total of five weekly sessions. That number has now been increased to as many as three sessions per day, a total of 15 per week.

The increased number of sessions will only be available if proper testing and evaluation provide documented proof that the student’s disabilities are so severe that they would not be able to succeed in a mainstream classroom without the additional services.

Leah Steinberg, the director of Project LEARN, Agudath Israel’s special education division, said that there have been several long-awaited changes in the rules to benefit yeshivah students that the Department of Education has agreed to recently.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be the vehicle to so many children’s success,” Mrs. Steinberg said. “This will allow children to remain with their peers, something that would not have happened without these changes.”

More policy changes may be coming in the near future, Mrs. Steinberg added.

An estimated 10 to 13 percent of yeshivah students receive some kind of special ed service, a number roughly equal to the New York City school population overall.

Hamodia reported last week on another development, allowing yeshivos for the first time to offer special education services even on Sundays and legal holidays as long as the overall hours for the year are the same as approved.

In response to the many calls to Hamodia’s or the Agudah’s office for more information, Mrs. Steinberg clarified that this is only for school-aged children, not preschool. She added that, for the time being, only “related services” such as therapists and health paras are included in this allowance.

The Department of Education is expected to also include P3 providers in the legal holiday authorization. Mrs. Steinberg is scheduled to meet with them on Thursday where the issue of P3s will be discussed.

The rule changes ease an ongoing frustration to yeshivos and parents of special needs students, who until now were required to follow the public school calendar. This meant that until now, on days that yeshivos were open but public schools were closed, therapists could not provide services since they would not have been reimbursed for their work.

Yeshivos must also still adhere to a 180-day school calendar, beginning no earlier than Sept. 1 and ending no later than June 30.

“Being able to see success and stay with their friends will not only benefit children socially,” Mrs. Steinberg said, “it will have an enormous impact on their emotional well-being as well.”